By: Shilo Urban
A New Lease on Life
An innovative new health care procedure called the MonaLisa Touch is helping change the lives of patients who suffer from vaginal atrophy.
| by Nicole Crites | Atrophic vaginitis, mostly found in postmenopausal women, is characterized by thinning, drying and inflammation of the vaginal walls and can cause painful intercourse, itching, burning and painful urination.
There are an estimated 64 million postmenopausal women in the United States, and as many as 32 million who suffer from symptoms of vaginal atrophy. While the dialogue about postmenopausal and vaginal health tends to be hushed compared to other health care issues, the cover of MonaLisa Touch’s official pamphlet simply states, “It’s OK to talk about it.”
“When I read about it, the results sounded almost too good to be true and, as we know, most of the time when things sound too good to be true, they usually are,” said Dr. Alan Unell, a specialist at the FEM Centre in Colleyville. “But the more I investigated this and read about it, the more interesting it sounded, and it sounded very real and truthful.”
The simple, five-minute treatment involves inserting a laser energy tip that “pulses,” stimulating the production of collagen and revitalizing vaginal tissue to restore moisture and comfort.
Unell said he brought the hormone-free, FDA-cleared treatment to the Tarrant County clinic after training with a doctor in Knoxville, Tenn.
The painful symptoms of vaginal atrophy affect more than just postmenopausal women. Unell said other prime candidates for the procedure include women who have undergone treatment for breast cancer, women after child birth who are breastfeeding, and others with hormonal imbalances and an inability to take estrogen. Past treatments include various pills and creams.
“With this procedure, it kind of reverses the whole process, and patients say they return more to normal than they ever have been. Whereas previous treatments were helpful, this seems to be superior in its results,” he said. “So it’s really nice to have this available for our patients.”
A patient of Dr. Unell, who asked to remain anonymous, said she chose to go through with the new procedure when she started menopause and began struggling with symptoms of painful dryness.
“The hormones weren’t working and I was using estrogen cream and things like that, and they weren’t really helping,” she said. “I would highly recommend it, I haven’t seen any negative affects of it at all. It’s so quick and easy, and the affect is really fast that I can’t imagine not wanting to do it.”
Unell said studies show that the best results are obtained with three treatments, six weeks apart, then a booster treatment once a year. The MonaLisa Touch is not yet covered by health insurance, and depending on the clinic, costs can range from $600 to $1,000 per treatment.
“There is nothing else on the market or that has been available that gives the same results as this does. There is no competition,” said Unell. “Many women suffer in silence.”