Vaginal Phototherapy–can it help you?
One of the inevitable consequences of aging and menopause is loss of vaginal moisture and tone. This causes dryness, shrinking of the vaginal skin, painful sex and urinary incontinence. Similar changes on the skin around the vagina, the vulva, cause a loss of elasticity, loss of anatomic clarity and reduced sensitivity to touch.
This process, vulvo-vaginal atrophy, has for centuries been addressed with lubricants like olive oil (which are useful even today). Since the 1950s, physicians have prescribed estrogens, which are effective in 80-90% of patients. However, estrogens’ well-known risks make them unsuitable for many women. Certain estrogen-like drugs, SERMs, have come into use lately but their effects are slow and unpredictable and their long term value is uncertain.
For patients in whom lubricants and estrogens are not helpful, we can provide a superior therapy that has enormous benefit and little risk. Vaginal Phototherapy is a procedure performed in the office. In this, Dr Howe places into the patient’s vagina a probe, no larger than a speculum, which carries highly-collimated light from a laser source. Passing this light through a fine grid produces a pattern of light exposure within the vagina, 6000-8000 points of light in a typical woman. This specific wavelength stimulates the uptake of water by the affected tissue, with a rapid production of collagen, connective tissue, elastic tissue and proteins in the treated area. The result is a healthy vaginal skin, indistinguishable from that of a young woman.
Three applications of light at monthly intervals are recommended, but most patients have improvement after only one or two. The improvement lasts for more than 18 months in 90% of patients treated.
From August 2016-February 2017, I treated 15 patients with phototherapy. All 15 of these patients have had a complete or almost complete restoration of vaginal health and have regained comfortable intercourse and bladder control.
These comments are from some of those first 15 patients.
From Carla, 58. “Improvement in vaginal tone is remarkable after three treatments. Improved lubrication. Increased sensitivity with intercourse even after the first treatment. I haven’t felt this good since my 30s. Itching is almost non-existent. Best of all, urinary incontinence is markedly improved.”
From Judy, 66. “I’m so much better. I have better lubrication, comfort with penetration.”
From Geraldine, 73. “This is great Dr Howe. My husband was afraid to hurt me but this is all done now.”
From Trina, 52. “Thank you so much. This is the best thing you have done for me. I can have sex, I can have fun again.”
From Linda, 60. “I had three treatments. Very content with the phototherapy results. Dryness is not a problem now. Urine leakage is gone, urges to void are gone. When we went on vacation we had a great time and I was not dry and there was no pain. Sex is wonderful and I don’t have to get up at night to pee anymore.”
From Tina, 57. “I didn’t feel a thing. It did not hurt at all. I am a lot better now.” Note, this was after only two treatments.
From Jane, 85. “I have not leaked urine since the first treatment.”
Phototherapy was invented in Italy and has had European Union licensing since 2011. No complications nor long term side effects have been described, which makes sense given the natural, non-pharmacologic nature of the therapy.
There are four makers of phototherapy devices in the USA in 2017. We have studied these devices (listed below) and concluded that there is no meaningful difference between them; a high quality light source is a high quality light source. In fact, one of the present makers produces lasers for one of the competitors.
We are proud to offer vaginal phototherapy using the Hyperion Selene Touch device, manufactured by our neighbors at Focus Medical Products in Bethel, CT. Other vaginal phototherapy devices are made abroad, making them much more expensive.
If you are interested in vaginal phototherapy, we urge you to come for a consultation, which should be covered by your medical insurance. Be aware that phototherapy treatments are not covered by any insurer, being considered “elective” and “cosmetic”.
Because of the need for very high quality light sources, phototherapy devices are expensive. Phototherapy thus has been targeted to the wealthy. There are more phototherapy devices in Manhattan (population 1.5 million) than in all of New England (population 14 million).
Being the first provider of this service in the area and having seen the unique effectiveness of this therapy, I feel that this valuable therapy should be available to all women. We have therefore taken steps to ensure that all of our patients who would benefit from Vaginal Phototherapy are able to get it. We price the treatment far below other centers, work with a bank and a finance company to provide loans or credit to our patients and arrange payments over time. We do not discriminate among patients by their ability to pay and make therapy available to any of our active patients who require it. We also guarantee that our patients will have a satisfactory result.