Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold. It will freeze any living tissue it comes into contact with. Applying small amounts of liquid nitrogen to various skin problems is now a standard treatment.
What can it treat?
Warts and verrucas, skin tags, small fleshy growths and similar small 'lumps and bumps' on the skin are ideal for liquid nitrogen treatment.
Is it painful?
Applications usually last about 10-30 seconds. Try holding a cube of ice against your skin for 10-30 seconds. It is uncomfortable but usually not too painful. Liquid nitrogen applied to skin is similar but colder and most people find the discomfort quite bearable.
What can I expect?
After a treatment, the lump, wart or whatever is being treated will gradually discolour and fall off. The surrounding skin will sometimes become red and swollen and be sore for a day or so. It is similar to a mild burn. Occasionally a blister (sometimes a 'blood blister') forms. If this happens, it is best to pop it with a clean pin and apply a plaster. New skin quickly forms and any scab or blister will soon disappear. The cosmetic result is usually good.
Does it always work?
Usually it does. However, sometimes thicker warts or verrucas need two or more sessions of liquid nitrogen treatment over a period of a few weeks to get to the root. Compared with other treatments, most people find liquid nitrogen the most effective and the least time-consuming way of removing these skin blemishes.
Further reading & references
- Cockayne S, Hewitt C, Hicks K, et al; Cryotherapy versus salicylic acid for the treatment of plantar warts (verrucae): BMJ. 2011 Jun 7;342:d3271. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d3271.
- Kwok CS, Gibbs S, Bennett C, et al; Topical treatments for cutaneous warts. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;9:CD001781. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD001781.pub3.
- Bruggink SC, Gussekloo J, Berger MY, et al; Cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen versus topical salicylic acid application for CMAJ. 2010 Oct 19;182(15):1624-30. Epub 2010 Sep 13.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.
Dr Tim Kenny
Dr Colin Tidy
Dr Helen Huins