Following menopause, approximately 18 percent of women experience a condition known as vaginal atrophy, which causes a wide range of bothersome physical symptoms, including vaginal dryness, itching, and irritation, and makes intercourse painful and difficult. As a result, intimacy is affected and interpersonal relationships can become strained. Unfortunately, many women with this chronic condition suffer in silence, believing it to be an inevitable part of the aging process.
According to urogynecologist Dr. Andrew Croak, director of Northwest Ohio Center for Urogynecology & Women’s Health, vaginal atrophy develops due to the reduction in a woman’s estrogen level following menopause. “The whole pelvic floor is very estrogen-receptor dependent,” he explains. “As a woman’s estrogen level declines and the receptors are no longer fed, the blood supply to those tissues decreases and they go from being lush, thick, and well-moistened to being thinner, dryer, more delicate, and much more sensitive. In some cases, the tissue becomes so sensitive that a simple swipe with toilet paper can actually cause bleeding.”
The good news is, with the advent of a painless, non-hormonal in-office procedure called MonaLisa Touch®, offered at Northwest Ohio Center for Urogynecology & Women’s Health, women with vaginal atrophy can experience complete resolution of these unpleasant symptoms and reclaim a higher quality of life.
FDA-approved MonaLisa Touch, which requires no anesthesia and causes no downtime, delivers C02 laser energy to the vaginal wall. The laser stimulates fibroblastic growth, which in turn helps generate a new blood supply and stimulates collagen production. As a consequence, the thickness, elasticity, and moistness of the vaginal tissue increase while sensitivity, pain, and irritation decrease.
The therapy is administered over the course of three in-office treatments spaced six weeks apart, and each session takes less than five minutes. Dr. Croak notes that the treatments are as easy as undergoing an annual Pap smear with a speculum but don’t take as long.
Thus far, the outcomes for patients undergoing MonaLisa Touch have been remarkable. “After the first treatment, we’re seeing an 85 percent significant improvement rate, with many of the women able to participate in pain-free intercourse for the first time in years. By the end of the third treatment, the improvement rate is nearly 100 percent. We’re also seeing exceptional long-term results with only about one-third of patients requiring treatment annually for severe cases. What’s more, after completing our first year of treatments for approximately 150 patients, our success rates mirror those on an international level,” Dr. Croak says.
In addition to vaginal atrophy, this therapy is helpful for women with lichen sclerosis, vulvodynia, and bladder leakage. However, Dr. Croak emphasizes that this new therapy should not be confused with “vaginal rejuvenation,” which is scientifically unfounded. In contrast, MonaLisa Touch is based on sound science and has been proven safe and effective in both the US and Europe.
“For the large population of women with vaginal atrophy, including breast cancer patients and women with vascular issues who are unable to use traditional vaginal hormonal treatments, this treatment is a total game-changer,” Dr. Croak states. ❦