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Is It Normal to Have a Burning Sensation After Mohs Surgery?

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Close-up of skin showing a stitched surgical wound with slight bruising around the stitches.

What to Expect During the Healing Process

Close-up of a healed scar on a person's wrist, showing pink, slightly raised tissue on light skin.
Close-up of a healed scar on a person's wrist, showing pink, slightly raised tissue on light skin.

After Mohs surgery, some patients may experience a burning sensation as a temporary side effect. However, if this sensation persists for longer periods, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Mohs micrographic surgery is a specialized technique used to treat common types of skin cancer. During the procedure, thin layers of cancerous tissue are progressively removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remains. This process helps preserve as much healthy tissue as possible.

While Mohs surgery boasts an incredibly high cure rate of up to 99%, the recovery process can bring some uncomfortable side effects like pain, swelling, and numbness. One common concern is a persistent burning or stinging sensation around the surgical site. 

Here’s what you need to know about burning after Mohs surgery and how to find relief.

What Causes Burning After Mohs Surgery?

There are several potential reasons why you may experience a burning sensation during the recovery process after Mohs surgery:

Nerve Damage 

One of the most common causes of burning is nerve damage that occurs during the surgical removal of skin cancer. Mohs surgery involves meticulously cutting away very thin layers of skin tissue until no cancer cells remain. However, this process can sometimes damage or sever tiny sensory nerves in the area. Disrupted nerve function can lead to numbness, tingling, pain or a distinct burning feeling.

Swelling and Inflammation

After the surgery, it is normal for the area around the incision site to become inflamed and swollen as part of the natural healing process. However, this inflammation puts pressure on the surrounding nerves, which can provoke feelings of burning or pain. The severity of the burning often correlates with the degree of post-surgical swelling.

Irritation from Bandages

The surgical dressings, tape, antibiotic ointments and other bandages applied after the procedure can sometimes irritate sensitive skin and surgical wounds. This is especially true if a patient has an allergy or sensitivity to certain medical tapes, topical creams or other dressing materials. The irritation and inflammation of the skin caused by these products can lead to a burning sensation around the wound.

Surgery Location

Mohs surgery performed on the lower legs, ankles and feet has a higher chance of causing painful nerve damage compared to other areas of the body. Therefore, procedures done on the lower extremities are more likely to result in bothersome burning feelings during recovery due to the increased risk of nerve trauma.


Certain antibiotics, pain medications or other drugs prescribed after surgery can potentially cause burning sensations as a side effect in some patients. Be sure to notify your doctor if you experience burning that seems linked to a particular medication.

Seek specialized care at Dermatology & Skin Health to understand and alleviate burning sensations post-Mohs surgery. Book your consultation today.

When Does Burning Normally Subside After Mohs Surgery?

Mild burning and skin sensitivity around the surgery site is very common early on in recovery. Most patients find it resolves within a few weeks as swelling diminishes and nerves heal.

However, a small subset of patients experience persistent burning past 6 months or even 1 year later. This is more likely with larger procedures or surgery on the leg region. In most cases, the burning does still gradually improve during the year after Mohs surgery.

How to Find Relief from Burning After Your Procedure

Experiencing burning, tenderness, or pain after Mohs surgery is common as the surgical site heals. There are several methods you can try to help reduce discomfort and find relief:

1Over-the-Counter Pain MedicationYour doctor may recommend taking OTC pain medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) to help relieve pain and decrease inflammation. Follow dosage instructions carefully.
2Ice PacksApplying an ice pack or cold compress to the surgery site for 10-15 minutes at a time can help numb burning sensations and reduce swelling. Use a cloth between the ice and your skin.
3Light CompressionGently compressing the area with a soft bandage or dressing helps minimize inflammation. But avoid wrapping too tightly as this can restrict blood flow.
4Oral AntihistaminesAntihistamine pills like cetirizine (Zyrtec) or loratadine (Claritin) can help calm skin irritation, itching, and inflammation that may be worsening burning.
5Soothing OintmentsLightly applying petroleum jelly, aloe vera gel, or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream around the incision may provide cooling relief for some patients.
6Sitting UprightAvoid lying flat on the surgery site as this can increase blood flow and worsen burning. Sitting upright or propping your head with pillows can help.
7Loose ClothingWear loose, breathable clothing that does not rub or irritate the affected area.
8Avoid HeatHeat can exacerbate post-surgical burning, so avoid hot showers, saunas, hot tubs, and direct sun exposure.
9DistractionListening to music, reading, meditation, or other distracting activities can help take your mind off burning discomfort.
10TimeBe patient as your skin heals. Burning and pain often gradually subside over several weeks or months post-surgery. Contact your doctor if symptoms persist.

Talk to your dermatologist about the best options to manage discomfort after Mohs surgery based on your specific case. Report any severe or worsening burning, as additional treatment may be needed.

Preparing for Your Mohs Surgery

Close-up view of a healed scar on human skin.
Close-up view of a healed scar on human skin.

Mohs surgery requires some advance preparation to ensure you heal as comfortably as possible. Here are some tips to get ready:

  • Arrange transportation. You will receive local anesthesia during surgery and cannot drive yourself home afterwards. Have a family member or friend accompany you who can drive you home.
  • Stop blood thinners. If you take any blood thinning medications like aspirin or ibuprofen, your doctor may advise you to stop these 1-2 weeks before surgery to reduce bleeding risk. Always follow their recommendations.
  • Eat a light meal. Don't go into your surgery with an empty stomach, but also avoid eating a heavy meal which could make you nauseous. Stick to lighter fare like toast, cereal, or yogurt. Stay hydrated too.
  • Dress comfortably. Wear loose, comfortable clothing that won't rub or irritate the surgery site. Button-down shirts are ideal for easy access.
  • Have pain medication ready. Pick up some over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to take post-surgery as needed for discomfort.
  • Arrange time off work. You may need to take a few days off work while recovering based on the extent of your procedure. Communicate with your workplace and schedule ample leave.

Taking these preparatory steps will help you recover smoothly after your Mohs surgery. Be sure to follow any other directions from your dermatologist.

Trust Dermatology & Skin Health for comprehensive support pre- and post-Mohs surgery. Request an appointment now to ensure a comfortable recovery journey.

Scar Care After Mohs Surgery

Dealing with scars after Mohs surgery can be an emotional journey. While scars are an unavoidable result of this skin cancer treatment, there are ways to help them heal optimally and reduce their visibility over time. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Moisturize daily to improve hydration and elasticity. Applying a fragrance-free, non-comedogenic moisturizing lotion to both healing and fully healed wound sites can help improve hydration and elasticity of the skin. Well-hydrated and elastic skin is less likely to become thickened or form raised, contracted scars. Moisturize once or twice daily, massaging the lotion gently into the scar and surrounding skin.
  1. Use silicone scar sheets, gels or creams to reduce scar appearance. Silicone-based scar products have been shown to help flatten and smooth raised scars while also reducing discoloration. Options include self-adhesive sheets, gels, creams or patches. Use as directed on the product for your specific scar type, location and stage of healing. Silicone sheets are often recommended for 12-24 hours daily for newer scars.
  1. Avoid sun exposure to prevent further discoloration. Protecting the scar from direct sunlight for at least 12 months is recommended. Apply a broad-spectrum, mineral sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to the area whenever going outside. Sun exposure can worsen red or brown discoloration. Wear protective clothing or bandages if needed.
  1. Consider scar revision for severely raised or wide scars. If a scar is aesthetically concerning due to being greatly raised, widened or restrictive to movement, surgical scar revision may be an option after complete healing. Scar revision techniques include excision, dermabrasion, laser resurfacing, injections and other methods. Discuss options with your provider if the scar appearance does not improve with conservative treatments.
  1. Support optimal healing through healthy lifestyle habits. Eating a balanced diet, staying well hydrated, getting 7-9 hours of sleep nightly and avoiding smoking can help provide the nutrients and conditions needed for proper wound healing and minimizing extensive scarring. Manage any medical conditions optimally.

By caring for your wound properly in the months after Mohs surgery, you can minimize scarring and achieve the best cosmetic results. Ask your dermatologist for scar management recommendations specific to your case.

Get Comprehensive Skin Cancer Care and Mohs Surgery in New Hampshire

Group of six smiling adults posing in an office environment, standing in front of a poster with a dermatology clinic logo and contact details.
Group of six smiling adults posing in an office environment, standing in front of a poster with a dermatology clinic logo and contact details.

At Dermatology and Skin Health, Dr. Gary Mendese offers exceptional dermatological care, including skin cancer treatment and Mohs surgery. With offices across southern New Hampshire, we provide compassionate, customized care to meet your unique needs.

To learn more about Mohs surgery and recovering comfortably, request an appointment with Dr. Mendese online or call using the numbers below:

DOVER,  NEWINGTON, LONDONDERRY, and BEDFORD offices - (603) 742-5556

PEABODY office - (978) 525-0100

Our team looks forward to helping you achieve healthy, vibrant skin!

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