What is Involved in the Procedure to Freeze Genital Warts?

N. Madison
N. Madison

The procedure used to freeze genital warts is called cryotherapy. This procedure involves the application of a substance called liquid nitrogen, which freezes the affected genital tissues. Once the wart is covered with ice, it is allowed to thaw gradually. A few weeks after the procedure is performed to freeze genital warts, the wart tissue usually becomes dry and then separates from the body. It is important to note that one cryotherapy treatment may not always prove sufficient for treating genital warts; a person may need to follow up with additional treatments.

Cryotherapy treatments that are intended to freeze genital warts can be performed using liquid nitrogen.
Cryotherapy treatments that are intended to freeze genital warts can be performed using liquid nitrogen.

In many cases, cryotherapy treatments that are intended to freeze genital warts can be performed in just a short period of time; a doctor may freeze a wart using liquid nitrogen for less than 60 seconds at a time. After this initial freezing, a doctor typically allows the tissues to thaw gradually. In some cases, he may wait for a short period of time and then freeze the wart once more. The length of time a wart must be treated and the number of repeat applications may depend on the size of the wart and its location.

Freezing warts, whether on the genitals or elsewhere on the body, with liquid nitrogen often causes blisters to form where the treatment was performed.
Freezing warts, whether on the genitals or elsewhere on the body, with liquid nitrogen often causes blisters to form where the treatment was performed.

To prevent pain during a cryotherapy treatment, a doctor typically uses a numbing medication. This usually helps the patient to feel less discomfort during the procedure. Sometimes he may also remove dead skin in the area by cutting it away before beginning the procedure to freeze genital warts. He may then apply the liquid nitrogen to the genital wart using a spray device, a pointed device, or even a cotton swab.

HPV is best known as the virus responsible for genital warts, which may be contracted despite condom use.
HPV is best known as the virus responsible for genital warts, which may be contracted despite condom use.

After receiving treatment to freeze genital warts, a patient may have to wait a few weeks for it to fall off. Repeat freezing treatments may be required to produce results in some cases. In addition to follow-up visits to repeat treatment, a person may also have to see his doctor for follow-up examinations meant to determine whether or not the treatment was successful and to ensure the wart hasn't returned.

Individuals who smoke cigarettes may be more susceptible to contracting genital warts.
Individuals who smoke cigarettes may be more susceptible to contracting genital warts.

While the procedure used to freeze genital warts can be effective, there are risks a person faces when opting for this therapy. For example, a patient may experience pain during and after the procedure. Redness and swelling may occur as well. Blistering and scarring may also occur, and some people develop open sores after treatment. A person may also experience skin discoloration as the result of cryotherapy, and some people even experience lasting pain.

Following treatment to freeze genital warts, a patient may have to see his or her doctor for follow-up examinations.
Following treatment to freeze genital warts, a patient may have to see his or her doctor for follow-up examinations.
One cryotherapy treatment may not always eliminate genital warts.
One cryotherapy treatment may not always eliminate genital warts.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

burcidi

The liquid nitrogen procedure is a breeze. It just feels a bit cold while it works on the wart. And it's effective! I used a ton of genital warts creams before this, I should have gotten the liquid nitrogen treatment the first time around.

bluedolphin

@ddljohn-- I didn't really get a scar from cryotherapy. The place on my skin where the wart was just turned a little pink and it has stayed that way, but it's not very noticeable.

I didn't have any problems after the procedure. I had some pain and soreness and had to rest at home for a few days, but I was totally fine after that.

Just as your doctor for after-care instructions and ask him if you need pain relievers. They will probably tell you to take an OTC pain reliever, that's what I took as well.

ddljohn

I'm going to have cryotherapy genital warts treatment next week. Will I need pain relievers after I get home?

Also, are the scars from this procedure permanent? Is there anything I can do to avoid scars from it?

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