Cryotherapy for Melasma


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Cryotherapy is a common procedure for the treatment of melasma and other skin conditions. It involves the freezing of the effected skin cells followed by their thawing.  It is often used as a result of its low cost although its results are often temporary.

Procedure for Cryotherapy

The purpose of cryotherapy in the treatment of melasma is to freeze the discoloured skin cells causing them to become damaged when they thaw. Liquid nitrogen is applied to the effected skin and heat from your skin then transfers to the nitrogen causing it to boil and evaporate.

A local anaesthetic is applied to the treatment site to prevent you from feeling discomfort during the procedure. The treatment is usually performed on an outpatient basis although in some cases you may require a general anaesthetic and an overnight stay.

The application of the liquid nitrogen varies depending on the technique used. The spray method is the most common form of application. A nozzle is held about 1 cm from the area and the nitrogen is sprayed out until ice forms. This is repeated until the entire treatment zone is frozen.

Another method for application is the dipstick method. This was the original technique, which used a cotton applicator to press the liquid nitrogen to the skin. This is not as effective as other methods as the nitrogen does not maintain its cool temperature.

The most modern application procedure is the cryoprobe procedure. This uses a probe to freeze the area and then conducts the heat using a copper attachment. Whilst this is the most modern technology many practitioners find it too time consuming and burdensome and as a result prefer the spray method.

How Cryotherapy Works for Melasma

Once your skin cells have been frozen with liquid nitrogen, they begin to thaw very slowly causing water and ice to cross through the cell membranes and damaging the cells. The cells then die causing inflammation. This removes the discoloured cells allowing new cells to grow in their place.

Complications of Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy has some complications, which should be considered before deciding to undergo the procedure.

Immediately after cryotherapy you may experience some pain as blisters form. You may also have a headache for some time after the procedure. These side effects can be treated with over the counter pain killers.

There are other complications of cryotherapy, which do not appear immediately after the procedure. The treatment area may become infected during the recovery process. If you believe that you may have an infection you should seek immediate treatment to limit any scarring. You may also experience some bleeding from the treatment area.

Long term complications can be further discolouration. This should be carefully considered before undergoing the treatment and means that you should always seek an experienced professional. You may also experience a long term loss of sensation at the treatment area due to the possibility of nerve damage.

There is also the risk of permanent complications such as scarring or permanent discolouration. You should always ensure that you are fully aware of the risks before undergoing the procedure. You should also carefully follow the after care advice of the practitioner to avoid the development of complications.


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