Every year, women all over the world experience symptoms related to Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause (GSM) including urinary stress incontinence and urinary urgency—symptoms vaginal laser therapy can help alleviate.
In addition to GSM, vaginal laser therapy can assist in relieving vaginal dryness and pain related to vulvovaginal atrophy and is currently being evaluated in multiple studies for the treatment of Lichen sclerosus, an autoimmune disorder that can carry a small but significant cancer risk.
But I'm sure you're curious ... What actually happens during a treatment?
Generally, a wand is inserted into the vagina, where a laser makes tiny pricks to a small part of the vaginal walls, promoting new collagen creation and encouraging blood flow—which in turn thickens the vaginal walls.
It's true that vaginal laser therapy treatments help improve elasticity, lubrication and pH; interestingly, it has also emerged as an alternative choice to vaginal estrogen for women who have survived cancer.
"Vaginal laser therapy can be very effective and may be the only option for treatment of GSM for some women—namely those who cannot use or who are uncomfortable using vaginal estrogen due to a personal history of cancer," said Nisha McKenzie, PA-C, IF, CSC, Grand Rapids OB/GYN and Director of the Center for Women's Sexual Health. "For survivors, in particular, this option can be the one thing to allow them to regain intimacy in their relationship. Vaginal estrogen is currently considered the first line therapy for GSM, but survivors are strongly discouraged from using any form of estrogen."
McKenzie also notes that essentially, vaginal laser therapy can do everything vaginal estrogen will do, but without the hormones—creating an additional option for those who choose not to or cannot use vaginal estrogen.
The FDA-approved MonaLisa Touch device has emerged as a popular choice for OB/GYN's who offer the treatments.
McKenzie stresses the importance of noting that while there are some studies available evaluating the efficacy of the treatment, vaginal laser therapy and the devices used for it are a relatively new technology available in the United States; meaning much more data and research is necessary moving forward.
"Ultimately, what I would love for every woman to know is that there are options. No matter what their history, no matter what their concerns, no matter what the roadblocks to treatment, there are things they can do to improve their health," said McKenzie. "It's important to have these conversations and for women to ask their healthcare provider. If the answers they are given don't seem to make sense for them, ask again. Women's voices deserve to be heard."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman
Nisha McKenzie, PA-C, IF, CSC, Grand Rapids OB/GYN and Director of the Center for Women's Sexual Health,