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Cryotherapy for Genital Warts

British Columbia Specific Information

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HPV can cause genital warts and cancers of the anus, cervix, mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva. The HPV vaccines protect against infection from certain types of HPV, however, they do not get rid of the infection once it has occurred.

Health Canada has approved 2 HPV vaccines:

  • Cervarix® (HPV2)
  • Gardasil®9 (HPV9)

To determine if you are eligible to receive the free vaccine, see HealthLinkBC File #101b Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines, visit ImmunizeBC – HPV (Human Papillomavirus), or speak with a public health nurse at your local public health unit. Those not eligible for the free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics and at some sexual health clinics.

To learn more about HPV infection, see HealthLinkBC File #101a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection and Genital Warts. For more information on STIs, sexual health information, where to get tested and other sexual health services in your area, visit SmartSexResource.

Treatment Overview

Cryotherapy (cryosurgery) destroys genital warts by freezing them. A doctor applies a very cold substance, such as liquid nitrogen, around the warts to freeze them. You may have a mild or moderate burning sensation during treatment.

What To Expect

Recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed. Healing usually occurs in 1 to 3 weeks. After treatment, you may have:

  • Irritation, soreness, or mild pain.
  • Swelling.
  • Dead tissue that sheds off.
  • Sores or blisters.

It is best to avoid sexual contact until the treated area heals.

Why It Is Done

Cryotherapy may be done when genital warts are visible, growing in a small area, or bothersome. It's usually not used when genital warts are widespread.

How Well It Works

Cryotherapy can be helpful in removing genital warts. Most of the time it removes warts. But warts may grow back. More than one treatment is often needed.

Risks

Some risks of cryotherapy include pain during and after treatment, skin colour changes, blisters, and skin irritation.

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.

Credits

Current as of:
February 11, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology