Cryotherapy of warts
Cryotherapy, along with topical creams, is one of the most common treatment options for genital warts. It is used to treat genital warts by freezing them off. It works by using liquid nitrogen to repeatedly freeze and thaw the warts at a temperature of -180℃. Exposing the warts to this temperature disrupts blood supply, kills the cells, and they normally fall off after a few days.
Less specialist devices, including over the counter medications, are unable to reach such a cold temperature, and are therefore less effective.
Please note that we do not offer this treatment in our clinic.
Total length of treatment
Upto 6-10 weekly visits
Applied once weekly until warts clear
Duration of each procedure
How effective is Cryotherapy?
The success rate for patients receiving treatment for genital warts by Cryotherapy is between 44% and 75%, after 6-10 weeks of treatment.
The effectiveness of Cryotherapy depends upon various factors. They may include one or more of the following:
- The number of warts you have
- The size of the warts
- The length of time you have had these warts
- The anatomical site of the warts (e.g. anal warts tend to respond more slowly)
- The keratin content of the warts
- Patients not finishing the course of the full treatment due to discomfort, pain and lack of improvement
- The level of experience of the clinician applying the Cryotherapy
- The type of appliance used to deliver cryotherapy (as not all appliances are the same).
How long does the treatment take?
The length of treatment varies from patient to patient. Whilst some patients may be treated in one visit, others may require weeks of treatment and some may even take months. It is very difficult to predict the number of visits you may need (and thus the length of treatment).
Will my warts be suitable for Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is suitable for all types of warts. However, it is difficult to predict the response of the wart to the treatment. Furthermore, different types of warts may benefit from a specific appliance to delivery Cryotherapy (as not all appliances are the same).
Will I need time off after the procedure?
Most patients will not need to take any time off work after the procedure. Rarely, one may feel a little sore for a day or two following the treatment, especially when intensive Cryotherapy has been applied.
Is it a painful procedure?
Cryotherapy often produces a slight sensation of stinging and burning, which can last for a short duration after the treatment session – typically ranging from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
However, pain thresholds vary between patients, and there are some who find it a rather painful procedure, which limits the amount of Cryotherapy that can be applied.
Some specialists may choose to apply a numbing cream in preparation for the treatment, to limit the sensation of pain.
Can I have Cryotherapy under local anesthesia?
It is possible to consider performing Cryotherapy under local anesthesia achieved by the application of a numbing cream or injecting the affected area with a local anesthetic.
This is sometimes used while performing ‘intensive’ Cryotherapy in treating resistant warts. It can also be used in those with a low pain threshold.
What are the side effects?
It is difficult to confine the freezing treatment solely to the warts. To some degree, you end up treating adjacent normal skin. The frequent or repeated exposure of normal skin to such low temperatures can damage it, producing lighter pigmentation or scarring in the treated areas, but this often normalises after a few months.
In those who receive an aggressive treatment of Meatal warts (warts at the opening of the penis), especially with Cryotherapy, can lead to fibrosis of the Meatus and sometimes narrowing to the extent that a Meatoplasty (surgical opening of the Meatus) may be needed to correct the abnormality.
Is Cryotherapy suitable for pregnant women?
Yes. Hyfrecation is a safe treatment for pregnant patients. Cryotherapy and Hyfrecation are the only safe methods of treatment of warts in pregnancy.
Warts can occur during pregnancy due to changes in hormones and immune system, but it’s important to be aware that warts often recede after delivery. You may want to consider waiting until after birth.
How much does this treatment cost?
We do not offer Cryotherapy in our clinic due to the availability of a more effective treatment called Hyfrecation. You can learn more about Hyfrecation by clicking here.
Page reviewed by Dr. Manoj Malu (Clinical Director)
Last reviewed date: 3 July 2020
Next review due: 3 July 2023
Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.
References & Further Reading
- British Association for Sexual Health and HIV: UK National Guidelines on the Management of Anogenital Warts 2015
- PMC US National Library of Medicine: Cryotherapy of Genital Warts
- British Journal of Venereal Diseases: Cryotherapy versus electrocautery in the treatment of genital warts
- British Journal of Dermatology: Cryotherapy of common viral warts at intervals of 1, 2 and 3 weeks
- Mater Sociomed: Cryotherapy of Genital Warts
- Am Fam Physician: Cryosurgery for Common Skin Conditions
- British Medical Journal: Cryosurgery of genital warts in cases in which
- Dermatologica Sinica: Comparison of cryotherapy session intervals in the treatment of external genital warts
If you think you may have Genital Warts
It is important to refer to a healthcare provider as soon as possible. They can diagnose your lesions and discuss treatment options with you, along with any questions & worries you may have.