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Cryotherapy (cryosurgery) destroys genital warts by freezing them with liquid nitrogen.
Cryotherapy is usually done in your doctor's office or clinic. A magnifying instrument may be used to see the abnormal tissue better.
Recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed. Healing usually occurs in 1 to 3 weeks. After treatment, the following may occur:
For men and women who have had cryotherapy for external genital warts, call your doctor for any of the following:
Avoid intercourse until the treated area heals and the soreness is gone.
Be aware of the following after treatment for vaginal or cervical warts:
Men treated for genital warts on the penis, scrotum, or in the urethra should avoid sexual intercourse until the treated area is healed and the soreness is gone. This is usually 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the size of the area treated.
Cryotherapy may be done when genital warts are visible, growing in a small area (especially near the anus), and bothersome.
Cryotherapy usually is not used when genital warts are widespread.
Experts agree that cryotherapy can be helpful in removing genital warts.1 In some studies, cryotherapy removed warts in up to 90 out of 100 cases.2 But warts may grow back. More than one treatment may be needed.
The removal of genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed.
There are few complications after cryotherapy. Scarring is a slight risk.
The number and severity of side effects depend on the number of freeze/thaw cycles used during cryotherapy and how large an area was treated.
Cryotherapy for external genital warts can be used safely during pregnancy.
Treating genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help reduce the risk of HPV infection.
The benefits and effectiveness of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost. Discuss this with your doctor.
- Buck HW (2010). Warts (genital), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2005, reaffirmed 2009). Human papillomavirus. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 61. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 105(4): 905–918.
Last Revised: June 21, 2012
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