There are a lot of health concerns that are just uncomfortable — to live with and talk about — particularly for women, particularly about vaginal health.
Maybe having children made it difficult to control your bladder.
Maybe you gained or lost weight and that’s made urination more uncontrollable.
Maybe you experience frequent itching and burning “down there” making you generally uncomfortable in daily life.
Maybe you have pain with intercourse.
Many women don’t like discussing, or even Googling, these issues. Some assume there’s not much that can be done to ease their pain and irritation.
While these issues may be uncomfortable, they’re not untreatable. In fact, vaginal rejuvenation may be just the solution necessary to provide the relief you’ve been hoping for.
What is Vaginal Rejuvenation?
Female rejuvenation, commonly referred to as vaginal rejuvenation, encompasses several procedures. In the past, physicians like plastic surgeons and even OB/GYNs used procedures including labia tightening, labiaplasty, and other surgical procedures for female rejuvenation.
Now we have less invasive, energy-based procedures available that don’t require surgery and require less downtime for recovery. These include the use of fractional CO2 lasers, radiofrequency devices, and injectables as means of vaginal rejuvenation.
The Right Patient for CO2 Laser Vaginal Rejuvenation
While early vaginal rejuvenation surgical procedures were designed primarily to treat a widened vaginal diameter, modern procedures (such as the CO2 laser) have evolved to focus on addressing the vaginal discomforts women experience.
Vaginal rejuvenation can be a solution to several issues for premenopausal women of any age or for women have completed menopause.
The CO2 laser works to address incontinence issues related to:
- weakened pelvic floor muscles from childbirth
- weight fluctuations
- hormonal changes
The CO2 laser works to tighten these muscles again and decrease incontinence.
The fractional CO2 laser can also be a solution for patients experiencing vaginal atrophy, dryness, or physiological stress such as pain with intercourse.
However, before we can evaluate if a patient is ready to begin vaginal rejuvenation, we make sure they’ve visited the OB/GYN within the last six months and have a healthy exam and pap smear results.
Dermatologists are not experts in vaginal health. Before we begin treatment, we want to make sure there’s not an underlying pathology that needs to be treated by a gynecologist. Once a patient is healthy, we evaluate if the CO2 laser is the best treatment option and safe for the patient’s concerns.
How the CO2 Laser Works
The fractional CO2 laser for vaginal rejuvenation is similar to the laser we use for CO2 laser resurfacing of the face, chest, and neck. This type of CO2 laser is also used for scar therapy and other aesthetic resurfacing procedures that result in healthier skin.
The goal of CO2 laser resurfacing is to create superficial damage to the top layer of skin (epidermis) and even slightly damage the layer underneath (superficial dermis) to stimulate remodeling of that skin. As the body heals after this procedure, collagen regenerates and the elastic fibers in the skin contract causing a tightening of vaginal tissue.
The healing process also promotes the growth of new blood vessels (neo-vascularization) which may improve lubrication problems. All in all, after the CO2 laser essentially injures the top layer of skin, your body restores it to a better function than before the procedure.
The idea of injuring the top layer of skin for it to heal may sound a little odd, but we live by this concept frequently. When we exercise, we break down muscles to make them ultimately stronger. In dermatology, we use this same principle for exfoliation and chemical peels. When we appropriately injure the top layer of skin, new healthy skin shines through with growth.
What to Expect During and After CO2 Laser Treatment
CO2 laser resurfacing uses a CO2 laser probe with a sterile covering to treat the vaginal area. The probe is inserted into the vagina, and then the laser is turned on. As we slowly remove this probe, it resurfaces the inside of the skin. Healing happens over days. Overall, patients tolerate this procedure well, even without anesthesia. The only minor complaint is a warm feeling generated from the laser.
The fractional CO2 laser can also be used on the labia itself which helps tighten it. Often, this is a separate procedure. While vaginal rejuvenation occurs from the inside out, labial procedures operate externally.
The procedure only lasts for 10-20 minutes and is considered very safe. While some studies say there’s no downtime for vaginal rejuvenation, we recommend three days of vaginal rest prior and an additional three days following the procedures. This means no sexual activity within this six-day period. There is no other downtime from work or exercise required.
We recommend a series of three treatments, usually 4-6 weeks apart. These visits are relatively quick and easy. As long as the patient is comfortable enough not to have anesthesia (and the large majority are), it’s a simple appointment.
After these treatments, women report significant improvement in vaginal burning, vaginal itching, dyspareunia (pain with sexual contact), and dysuria (pain with urination or incontinence).
If you’re dealing with vaginal pain, incontinence, or discomfort, but have otherwise healthy vaginal health, call us for a consultation to see if CO2 laser vaginal rejuvenation is the right treatment for you. Again, it’s important to make sure you see your OBGYN within 6 months prior to your consultation.
Dr. Stan Tolkachjov is a board-certified dermatologist in Frisco and Rockwall, TX. He has a particular interest in skin cancers and rare adnexal malignancies, Mohs surgery and complex facial reconstruction, pyoderma gangrenosum, and neutrophilic dermatoses. In his spare time, Dr. Tolkachjov enjoys spending time with his family, trivia, sports, travel, and mentoring students, residents, fellows, as well as sharing ideas with his colleagues to improve patient care.