At 75, Barbara was an unlikely widow. Her husband 15 years her junior passed away unexpectedly and way before his time. In the few months leading to his death, Barbara had noticed sex was painful and so she decided after Jack passed away that although she felt she was a very sexual woman, it was no longer on the table for her. This saddened her as she said she had always enjoyed sex but the memory of the sexual pain was almost too much to bear.
At age 65, Betsy presented with recurrent urinary tract infections and vaginal dryness. She also leaked urine when she coughed or sneezed. She had been waiting for an appointment with her gynaecologist for three months. Her GP had no idea how to treat her. She kept prescribing antibiotics but there was one problem. Her urine for culture and sensitivity came back negative. Betsy was frustrated.
Lucy was diagnosed with lichen sclerosis, a skin condition of the vulva that results in pain and itching not to mention scarring of the vulva. This not only was uncomfortable and embarrassing, it impacted her self-esteem. She was offered cortisone cream as a treatment by her doctor but she feared that it would thin her skin and make matters worse over time. She hoped for a more permanent solution.
Lichen Sclerosis is a skin condition that creates patchy, white skin that’s thinner than normal. Lichen sclerosus can affect skin anywhere on your body. But it most often involves skin of the vulva or around the anus in women.
A woman’s sex life and/or self-esteem needn’t suffer because of any of the above conditions which are quite common in women. Vaginal dryness which is often the cause of painful sex is the hallmark symptom of Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) (formerly called Vaginal Atrophy), a condition that affects women during the menopausal years. Vaginal dryness, leakage of urine, recurrent urinary tract infections are all common symptoms of GSM along with thin watery discharge, post-coital bleeding, painful sex and itching.
Estrogen is the hormone regulator of the vagina and is what keeps the vagina in balance and well lubricated. Lubrication is why sex doesn’t hurt. Estrogen also accounts for the elasticity of the vagina and it is those reasons prevent sex from being painful.
When estrogen decreases in the vagina, the vaginal walls may become dry, lose elasticity and predispose a woman to recurrent urinary tract infections. The treatment for GSM has historically been hormone-free personal moisturizers and/or hormone treatments such as a tablet, cream or a ring that are inserted into the vagina. Both are local therapies and typically doesn’t cause any side effects.
The down side of localized estrogen therapy is that it has to be taken for your entire life twice weekly if you are using a tablet or cream form. If you are using the ring, then this must be inserted and removed by a health care professional every three months. If you stop using localized estrogen therapy your condition will rebound. This is the only symptom of menopause that typically doesn’t go away. These therapies are lifelong.
Although localized estrogen therapy is low dose, many women especially those who’ve had breast or uterine cancer are uncomfortable with any amount of it no matter how small. Although localized estrogen typically doesn’t cross over into the bloodstream, we don’t really know for sure because some women do experience breast tenderness.
When estrogen levels decline after menopause, many changes occur and women may suffer as a result. They needn’t. You’ve heard of laser therapy for the face? Now there’s laser therapy for the vagina. Enter Mona Lisa Touch a new novel fractional CO2 laser therapy for vaginal health. It is being used to treat vaginal dryness, painful sex GSM (vaginal atrophy), leakage of urine and may even help some women with lichen sclerosis.
Many women have called this new laser treatment life changing. Others have said it brought them back to their youth. The Mona Lisa Touch laser therapy is a simple procedure that takes less than five minutes. Typically, a woman will need 2-3 treatments and many women report symptom relief after the very first treatment and even greater improvement after the second and third treatments.
The Mona Lisa Touch is convenient, performed in the doctor’s office, requires no anaesthesia, has minimal side effects and requires no downtime. The Mona Lisa laser probe is inserted into the woman’s vagina and delivers laser pulses. The total procedure time is less than five minutes and is virtually painless.
Some women may experience mild discomfort with the laser probe tip insertion during the first procedure if there is sensitivity. Many women report instant relief and provides lasting results. A once a year single treatment is recommended after the first series of treatments to maintain symptom relief.
Ladies, don’t let vaginal dryness, painful sex, leakage of urine and/or lichen sclerosis get in the way of your life or worse your love life. There are lots of treatments available including laser therapy such as the Mona Lisa Touch which I’m happy to report, we are now offering for women in my clinical practice. Mona Lisa Touch
Maureen McGrath is a women’s health expert and hosts the Sunday Night Sex Show on News Talk 980 CKNW. She is creator of the blog 50ShadesofPink.ca and has a clinical practice in North Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information about Mona Lisa Touch, visit Mona Lisa Touch