A new treatment called FemTouch Vaginal Laser therapy that uses laser technology -- no surgery or hormones -- can have a dramatic effect on the lives of postmenopausal women who experience vaginal dryness.
"When we go through menopause, estrogen levels decline," said Dr. Christine LaSala, a Hartford HealthCare urogynecologist. "Estrogen is so important in our bodies. Specifically, estrogen on the vagina keeps the vagina moist, elastic and pliable -- and healthy. So when we go through menopause and as the estrogen levels decline, the vagina, the urethra and the bladder feel it.”
The resulting vaginal dryness, itchiness and irritation can become so pronounced that some women question if they have an infection.
Vaginal topical estrogen therapy is the primary treatment for painful sex due to atrophy. This vaginal laser may meet the need for women who cannot use estrogen, or are worried about using it, and who have significant pain with sex. But any woman with vaginal atrophy and bothersome genitourinary symptoms may be a candidate.
What is Vaginal Laser Therapy?
Vaginal laser therapy is an office-based, minimally invasive, non-surgical, non-hormonal laser vaginal procedure that stimulates new collagen production for healthier tissue. Developed by Lumenis, the leading company for aesthetic medical laser devices, in collaboration with leading gynecologists, our FemTouch laser offers a simple treatment option for some vaginal health conditions.
Is it right for me?
Vaginal laser therapy may be used for women going through menopause, or who are already postmenopausal and have vaginal discomfort, itching, burning, dryness, discomfort or pain with sexual intercourse as well as urinary frequency. Lack of estrogen affects the vagina and external genital area making it dry and painful. Women who are breastfeeding and suffer from sexual discomfort due to vaginal dryness may benefit as well.
Although laser therapy is not yet approved for the treatment of vaginal atrophy, clinical studies show significant improvement in painful sex. Studies are currently being done in older women with recurrent urinary tract infections which show promising results. The vaginal laser is not intended to “tighten up” the vagina. Thus far, there are no conclusive studies to show that it benefits women with stress urinary incontinence (those who lose urine when they laugh, cough, exercise). Additional studies are being submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for review.
Dr. Christine LaSala answers your questions:
What should I expect?
Typically, 2-4 treatments are needed to achieve the desired outcome on the vaginal lining. Each treatment is approximately 4-6 weeks apart. In clinical evaluations, women reported feeling improvement after only 1-2 treatments. Clinical trials have shown that 90 percent of women who have received 3 laser treatments demonstrate a 70 percent or higher improvement in their sexual function and urinary distress scores based on validated questionnaires. These women reported that they were ‘very satisfied or satisfied’ with the treatment.
What can I expect after treatment?
Immediately after treatment you may feel a very mild heat sensation in which case your treatment provider can prescribe a hydrating gel. This sensation usually should not last longer than a few hours. Otherwise the procedure is associated with minimal discomfort and takes a few minutes.
How does it work?
FemTouch technology is an innovative carbon-dioxide laser technology, enabling doctors to apply precise and controlled laser microbeams on the vaginal lining. This allows stimulation of new tissue growth by triggering collagen production. New tissue growth results in improved moisture, elasticity and a healthier vaginal ecosystem. Before treatment, your physician should examine and assess your vaginal health to ensure you are a good candidate for the treatment. During the treatment, your physician will move the sterilized applicator along the vaginal wall in an outward motion, applying the laser in a 360-degree pattern covering the entire area. The entire procedure should take just a few minutes. You may experience a minor heat sensation during the treatment but it is very gentle and you should not feel uncomfortable. There are no restrictions except to abstain from sexual intercourse for 72 hours. Otherwise, you may drive yourself to and from the appointment and resume all other activities immediately.
Why is this important?
Let’s face it, there has been significant attention and progress made toward improving erectile dysfunction in men with the development and usage of sildenafil (Viagra). What about women and their desire to continue a healthy sex life even after menopause? Many women who are post-menopausal or lack estrogen due to cancer therapy or surgery suffer from vaginal dryness and pain. Lubricants are helpful, and may allow sex to occur, but do not always result in comfortable sex. Equal attention should be paid to women’s needs. Now there is carbon-dioxide laser therapy, a non-hormonal treatment, that provides significant improvement or resolution of women’s symptoms.
How much does it cost?
The cost is $800 per treatment (3 treatments are necessary for maximum benefit). Note that maintenance treatments may be necessary every 12-18 months at $400 each.
Will my insurance pay for it?
FemTouch is currently not covered by insurance, however it should be covered by your HSA plan.