Cryotherapy may help manage psoriasis symptoms, but its effectiveness varies and has limited research support.

Psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune condition, manifests as rapid skin cell overgrowth, leading to distinctive red, scaly patches. Treatment options typically include topical applications, light therapy, and medications such as biologics that target the immune system.

However, when these conventional approaches fall short in managing symptoms, some people may turn to cryotherapy. This treatment uses freezing temperatures to alleviate inflammation and slow excessive skin cell growth.

Though cryotherapy is generally considered safe, research on its effectiveness for psoriasis is still limited.

Cryotherapy, or using cold temperatures for therapeutic purposes, can sometimes help alleviate symptoms such as inflammation, itching, and discomfort. However, there is limited research on its use for psoriasis, with available studies dating back a few decades.

In a 2005 study involving 63 people with small plaque psoriasis, cryotherapy showed limited effectiveness: 6.35% experienced complete resolution, 30.1% showed mild to moderate improvement, and 63.5% saw no change.

This suggests cryotherapy might not be notably beneficial for most with this condition.

However, a small 1996 study revealed more promising outcomes. Ten participants with small psoriasis plaques underwent cryotherapy on one side while the other side remained untreated for comparison.

After 12 weeks, nine participants were assessed: five experienced complete resolution, two showed significant improvement (75% and 80% better), one displayed partial improvement (33% better), and one had no improvement. Meanwhile, the untreated areas didn’t show any changes or worsened.

How does cryotherapy work for psoriasis?

Cryotherapy for psoriasis involves using extreme cold temperatures to reduce inflammation, slow down the rapid skin cell growth associated with psoriasis, and alleviate symptoms. It typically involves applying liquid nitrogen or another cooling agent directly to the affected skin, which can help decrease itching, redness, and scaling.

The cold temperature can temporarily numb the nerve endings in the skin, relieving discomfort.

After undergoing cryotherapy, it’s important to care for your skin properly to promote healing and minimize potential side effects.

Here are some tips for post-cryotherapy skin care:

  • Keep the area clean: Gently wash the treated area with a mild soap and lukewarm water to keep it clean. Pat the area dry with a soft towel, avoiding rubbing or friction.
  • Moisturize: Applying fragrance-free moisturizers multiple times daily is recommended for post-cryotherapy care. Vaseline or Aquaphor can create a protective barrier, aiding moisture retention and promoting a healing environment.
  • Protect from sun exposure: Shield the treated area from direct sunlight for a few days post-cryotherapy. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher if the treated area cannot be covered by clothing.
  • Avoid picking or scratching: Refrain from picking at any scabs or blisters that may form as the skin heals. This prevents infection and promotes proper healing.
  • Monitor for complications: Keep an eye on the treated area for signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, warmth, or pus. Contact a healthcare professional if you notice any concerning symptoms.

Potential side effects of cryotherapy for psoriasis can include:

  • Pain or discomfort: Immediate discomfort or pain at the treatment site is common during and after cryotherapy.
  • Redness and swelling: The treated area might temporarily become red, swollen, or blistered.
  • Changes in skin pigmentation: Some people may notice lightening or darkening of the skin in the treated area.
  • Risk of infection: There’s a slight risk of infection, especially if proper post-care instructions aren’t followed.

Before undergoing cryotherapy for psoriasis, be sure to tell your healthcare professional about any medical conditions you have or medications you take to reduce the risk of side effects.

Cryotherapy isn’t recommended for some conditions that worsen when exposed to cold. These conditions include:

If you’ve experienced cold-related injuries or have inadequate blood flow in the treatment area, cryotherapy might not be safe for you.

Cryotherapy shows promise as a supplementary treatment for psoriasis, potentially alleviating skin redness, itching, and scaling associated with the condition. However, effectiveness is limited, and long-term effects remain uncertain due to limited research.

If you’re considering cryotherapy, it’s best to consult a dermatologist for personalized advice. They can help you explore cryotherapy to manage psoriasis or offer alternatives for symptom relief.