Skin tags are small, benign skin growths, which most often affect the neck, eyelids, armpits, upper chest, groin, or the underside of a woman’s breasts. While these lesions are completely harmless, many people wish to get rid of them, as they can be unsightly or sometimes painful due to their location. The most common medical procedure to get rid of skin tags is called Cryotherapy.
What is Cryotherapy?
Cryotherapy is a common outpatient procedure in which a qualified practitioner uses liquid nitrogen in order to freeze skin tags and other skin abnormalities. The way in which the application of liquid nitrogen removes the skin tags is necrosis, which is the process of freezing and thawing cells. The affected cells shed away and the area left behind eventually grows back new, unblemished skin.
Cryotherapy has several advantages to other skin removal techniques: it’s easy to use, provides a low cost solution to certain dermatological problems, and it also returns decent cosmetic results. Even certain superficial cancers such as basal cell skin cancer and Bowen disease are treatable through cryotherapy.
How Cryotherapy Works
Cryotherapy is divided into three stages: heat transfer, cell injury, and consequent inflammation.
Heat transfer occurs when liquid nitrogen interacts with the skin on to which it is applied. If a doctor uses a spray cryotherapy technique, then the nitrogen is applied directly to the skin and usually evaporates immediately, leaving behind frozen skin.
After the transfer of heat from the skin and the application of liquid nitrogen, the cells begin to thaw. Cell injury occurs in this period. When cells are frozen at a rapid rate, then thawed at a very slow rate, the maximum amount of cell injury occurs.
Side effects of cryotherapy are usually mild and are gone within a week or two. The patient can expect redness, swelling and blistering around the affected area. Be sure to cover the area and keep it clean until the blistering and/or redness go away. Scarring is minimal in cryotherapy, and thus should not be anything to worry about when contemplating the removal of a skin tag from any given area on the body.
“What Are Skin Tags? What Causes Skin Tags?.” Medical News Today: Health News. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2010. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/67317.php
“Cryotherapy.” Wellness.com – Your guide to the best of health and wellness. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Aug. 2010. http://www.wellness.com/reference/therapies/cryotherapy/practice-theory-and-evidence.