Celebrities like Zoe Ball and Meg Matthews are speaking out about taboo problems associated with the menopause – such as hot flushes, anxiety and insomnia.
However, one of the most embarrassing issues connected with the menopause still has a veil of secrecy: vaginal dryness.
Many women find that vaginal dryness is a problem in the years leading up to the menopause and beyond or after cancer treatments. It can cause discomfort and embarrassment.
One survey of the menopause found over half of women aged between 51 and 60 suffer from the distressing condition of vaginal dryness. However, new approaches means there is hope for women.
What causes vaginal dryness?
The primary reason for vaginal dryness is the menopause – as the body is no longer producing enough oestrogen. This results in the vaginal walls becoming thinner and drier. This condition is also known as vaginal atrophy, atrophic vaginitis or vulvo-vaginal atrophy.
Although the most common cause of vaginal dryness is the menopause, it can also occur at the following times:
• During the peri-menopause (the years before periods stop completely)
• After cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy of the pelvic region
• After a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
• After an oophorectomy (removal of the ovaries)
Treatments for vaginal dryness
Vaginal lubricants and moisturisers can offer temporary relief. Water-based lubricants can make sexual intercourse easier and more comfortable, whereas moisturisers usually last longer and can help with the discomfort of ongoing vaginal dryness.
Oestrogen treatment comes in two forms, topical and oral. Topical oestrogen is the more effective option and is applied directly to the vagina. Another advantage of topical oestrogen is that a lower dose is needed and that less oestrogen reaches your bloodstream.
As well as being less effective, oral oestrogen increases your body’s exposure to the hormone. However, some women are unwilling or unable to take HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Some years ago, a study linked HRT with cancer. Although for the majority of women HRT is considered safe, it isn't suitable for everyone.
Laser treatment has shown excellent results in improving vaginal dryness. Laser therapies such as The MonaLisa Touch® actually regenerate vaginal tissue and, unlike moisturisers or oestrogen treatments, they treat the underlying condition.
The procedure is minimally invasive, pain-free and quick, taking just a few minutes. The majority of women give positive feedback and are happy with the results.
The MonaLisa Touch is a fractional CO2 laser that is specifically designed to treat vaginal tissue.
For the treatment of vaginal dryness or atrophy it is recommended that women have three sessions of laser therapy 4 to 6 weeks apart and then yearly.
However, the frequency of follow-up treatments that are needed will vary from case to case, depending on how severe your symptoms are.
The effectiveness of The MonaLisa Touch® in treating vaginal dryness and atrophy (these symptoms along with other associated urinary problems are also known as genitourinary syndrome of menopause or GSM) is backed up by prestigious international medical journals. In addition, there is increasing evidence that laser therapy is beneficial for conditions such as mild urinary incontinence, lichen sclerosus, vulval inflammation and postnatal disorders caused by injury during childbrith.
One study reported the following results after three sessions of MonaLisa Touch®:
• 90% improvement in vaginal laxity
• 85% reduction in vaginal itching
• 84% reduction in vaginal burning
• 76% improvement to vaginal dryness
• 72% less pain during sex
Please note that laser therapy must be carried out by consultant gynaecologists who have advanced knowledge in treating vaginal disorders.
The consultant gynaecologists at Twenty-five Harley Street, Mr Pandelis Athanasius, Mr Francis Gardner and Miss Tania Adib are expert at treating vaginal dryness with the MonaLisa Touch®. To find out whether the treatment is suitable for you call 020 3883 9525 and ask to arrange an appointment, or email [email protected]. Visit 25harleystreet.co.uk.
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary