INTIMATE WOMEN'S HEALTH
Intimate women’s wellness is receiving increasing attention in the media. Terms such as vaginal rejuvenation, labiaplasty, and vaginal tightening are becoming common and mainstream. The medical community is beginning to accept that women need options to maintain intimate wellness and a satisfying sexual experience across the lifespan. Lumina offers a variety of choices for women to promote and maintain intimate wellness.
Changes in vaginal health occur at various times throughout a woman’s life. During adolescence and puberty women become aware of the appearance of their external genitalia. The internet has dramatically changed how women obtain knowledge about their bodies and frequently the information obtained by young adults raises questions about appearance, normalcy, and sexual appeal. Such concerns should be addressed by a professional experienced in women’s health. Occasionally surgical correction of asymmetry or size by a labiaplasty is indicated but in general it is strongly recommended that young women receive appropriate counseling about the spectrum of what is normal before they proceed with a surgical procedure. Dr. Carlson at Lumina offers such treatment and counseling for issues related to the external genitalia.
Vaginal health and external genitalia post childbearing may change significantly, and these changes vary depending on the mode of delivery and a woman’s general health. Common complaints post-childbirth are decreased vaginal tone, changes in sexual response, urinary incontinence, and painful intercourse. Many women are not prepared for these significant changes and receive little to no support from their medical providers regarding what can be done to address their symptoms. Frequently women are hesitant to inquire, and providers are unaware of potential treatments. Dr. Carlson offers counseling and treatment options for these symptoms which are discussed below.
Peri and post-menopausal changes in vaginal health are significant. Theses changes are now referred to as the genitourinary syndrome of menopause or GSM. This term encompasses genital, urinary and sexual changes that occur after the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone cease. The average age for menopause is 50 while the average lifespan is over 80 years, therefore, a woman spends one third of her life in a condition which involves lacking estrogen and other hormones. Thinning of the external genitalia and vaginal tissue, painful intercourse, dry vagina, urinary urgency and incontinence, increased bladder infections, and reduced sexual response are common. A woman can experience GSM as soon as a few months post menopause or many years post menopause; there is no set timeline and the spectrum is vast.
Symptoms associated with GSM may have a significant impact on lifestyle and personal relationships. The physical changes will not resolve without treatment. Vaginal dryness and painful intercourse can be addressed with lubricants and/or prescribed vaginal estrogen preparations. Urinary urgency and bladder infections have been shown to be reduced with the use of vaginal estrogen. Systemic use of hormones improves vaginal symptoms as well as sexual response. Dr. Carlson, a board- certified gynecologist, offers all these options to her patients as well as in-depth counseling about symptoms and treatment of GSM.
Laser treatment is a novel non-hormonal treatment approach for GSM and vaginal symptoms that occur post-childbirth. The concept behind laser procedures to treat vulvovaginal conditions is to promote a healing response in the affected tissues which results in new cell production and increased collagen and elastin. The results are improved vaginal tone and moisture, improved sexual response, reduction in urinary incontinence and urgency, and overall improved vaginal health. Internal and external tissues can be treated. The Core Intima CO2 laser at Lumina has demonstrated in studies to induce such changes which have been documented by biopsy as well as patient satisfaction surveys. Patient satisfaction has been greater than 90% in these studies and Dr. Carlson has found the same to be true in her treated patients. Results last for at least one year at which time a single maintenance treatment may be needed. The treatments have little to no discomfort and no downtime. The initial treatment is three applications one month apart.
It is important for women to know that options to treat vaginal changes associated with childbirth and menopause exist and that they have a high rate of satisfaction. Traditional treatments using hormones can be combined with laser treatments to achieve maximum patient satisfaction. Some patients in whom hormone use is contraindicated now have a non-hormonal option to treat their symptoms. Dr. Carlson offers free consultations for CO2 laser treatments and accepts new patients into her practice of gynecology.