Bringing Sexy Back
Everyone talks about the hot flashes, the mood swings and the weight gain, but one of the most disempowering, the most life changing elements of menopause can be the death of your sex life … or at least an enjoyable sex life.
While Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT – described to me recently and hilariously as ‘the same old pregnant mare’s urine stuff that’s been around for decades’ – works for some women, it isn’t effective for all and is not an option for women with a history of or high risk of developing breast cancer.
Fractional CO2 laser treatment is a n onsurgical drug-free treatment using the same laser technology that has been used for over a decade to treat acne and scarring and revitalise ageing skin, and is now giving post-menopausal women, and their husbands, their sex lives back. While it’s not available in Geelong yet, local surgeons Ian Holten and Rafael Acosta will be making the technology – rather charmingly called MonaLisa Touch therapy - available to patients at Australian Skin Face Body from early in 2015.
After speaking to one patient who was currently undergoing the treatment, and raving about the results, I was fascinated and wanted to know more, which led to Dr Fariba Behnia- Willison, a pioneering specialist using the technology to treat the vaginal symptoms of menopause in Australia. I asked Dr Willison what had led her to the MonaLisa Touch treatment.
“Vulvo-vaginal atrophy has always been an area where it is difficult for medical practitioners to provide patients with consistent and effective treatment, so I am always looking for new possibilities and treatment options to help my patients,” she said.
Vulvo-vaginal atrophy is the medical term for a condition that affects more than four in ten menopausal and post-menopausal women. The drop in hormone levels that occurs during menopause can result in a thinning and loss of elasticity of the vaginal walls,
the blood supply is reduced and the vaginal walls loses much of their natural lubrication.
The language alone that describes the condition is depressing – there is a lot of ‘loss of’ and ‘reduced’. For women who find the condition yet another unwelcome symptom of menopause, the reality is that sex becomes nonstimulating, uncomfortable and, for some, unbearably painful.
“I first saw MonaLisa Touch in 2012 at an international conference focusing on urogynaecology. Initially I was sceptical, but once I read the research and understood what was involved and how it worked I knew it was something I needed to look into.
“I have been offering MonaLisa Touch in my practice in Adelaide since early 2013 and I have performed more than 2000 treatments. However, it is only recently that more gynaecologists are introducing the treatment into their practices. So I expect over the next few months it will become available in more medical practices across Australia.”
MonaLisa Touch is suitable for women of all ages experiencing symptoms related to vulvo-vaginal atrophy, including vaginal dryness or itching, urinary urgency and incontinence, burning sensations and irritations of the vagina, fissuring of the vaginal opening, vaginal laxity, pain during intercourse. While the symptoms of vulvo-vaginal atrophy are most commonly associated with menopause, younger women can also experience some or all of the symptoms due to prolonged use of the Pill, breast cancer, breast-feeding or scarring resulting from childbirth requiring severe perineal repair.
For women who have or who have had breast cancer, the rate of vaginal atrophy is high – around 60 per cent. And for these women, Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, that has been one of few options to treat symptoms simply isn’t an option. Alternatives to HRT that have been available tend towards non-scented barrier cream and a LOT of lubricant, and there is not a lot about that that is sexy.
“MonaLisa Touch is certainly suitable for patients who have previously had cervical cancer and breast cancer. In fact they are very often ideal candidates for the procedure because it is not recommend that they use HRT and their cancer treatment has often caused early onset of vulvo-vaginal atrophy,” Dr Willison said.
“Typically the procedure takes around five minutes and for most patients it is painless. No anaesthesia is required. It is a walk-in walkout procedure that is mostly done in the private practice of gynaecologists.
“A probe is inserted into the vagina and then slowly withdrawn. As it is withdrawn the doctor stops every five millimetres and the fractional laser energy is delivered to the vaginal tissue. For most patients the only sensation is a slight vibration. Following procedure patients can return to the normal daily routine, although it is recommended to avoid sexual actively for around three days after the procedure.
“MonaLisa Touch has exceeded my expectations. It is a l ow-risk procedure that is simple to perform and very well tolerated by patients. And the level of patient satisfaction is very high. If I have diagnosed the patient to be suitable for a MonaLisa Touch treatment, it is highly unusual for them not to notice a significant improvement in their symptoms.
Patients will typically have three treatments, four to six weeks apart. Dr Willison also recommends a follow up treatment every year or so to maintain the improvements experienced from the initial course of treatments.She said that while no treatment is without risk, the likelihood of complications following a MonaLisa Touch treatment is very low.
“My experience of no serious or lasting side-effects is similar to that of medical practitioners from around the world and what is reported in the published research. Tens of thousands of MonaLisa Touch treatments have been performed around the world and I am not aware of any serious side effects of any kind. At most patients describe some very mild irritation or warmth after the treatment that typically lasts only a few hours, and even then these cases are quite rare.”
“While I h ave found MonaLisa Touch to be extremely effective for the treatment of many of the symptoms of vulvo-vaginal atrophy, and this is backed up by the published studies, it is important that before having the MonaLisa Touch procedure that patients have a gynaecological examination to ensure there are no underlying pathologies or other problems that should be addressed prior to having the treatment.”
“It’s relieved so many of my symptoms, I just can’t believe the difference,” a patient of Dr Willison’s told me.
“And it’s not just me. There is a wall covered in cards in her office, which I thought were from her female patients, but we both laughed when she said they were from the husbands. One of them was the biggest thank you card I’ve ever seen – he must have been one happy man!” And would she recommend it to other women?
For more information contact Australian Skin Face Body or visit www.monalisatouch.com.au