SAN ANTONIO – It's an issue that's personal, and for many women, embarrassing to talk about.
Whether it's due to childbirth, menopause or breast cancer treatments, millions of women struggle with intimate dryness, pain and even incontinence.
But now there is a nonsurgical option to treat the problem, and it's giving women their sexual lives back.
The treatment is called the CO2RE Intima laser, and Dr. Laura Bennack, of Radiance Medical Spa, has seen amazing results.
"It is a wonderful machine that women have been waiting for forever," Bennack said. "It is a CO2 (carbon dioxide) radio frequency device that helps with incontinence, vaginal dryness, pain and laxity."
For her patients, including Kathy Smith, the treatment has been life-changing.
"Being a breast cancer survivor, I can't take the normal hormones that most people can. So I needed something different," Smith said.
Without estrogen, Smith, like so many other women, was experiencing vaginal dryness.
The CO2RE Intima laser restores moisture, rebuilds and tightens the vaginal wall and even alleviates mild incontinence.
Desirey Wolfe performs the procedure on patients at Radiance Medical Spa.
"With each rotation of the internal device, I make a pattern using laser pulses," Wolfe said. "I continue to move the device in a circle internally, overlapping the treatment area to make a full resurface of the canal. It slowly remodels the whole vaginal canal."
Because the device causes trauma to the canal, the body creates collagen and forms new tissue there. Each patient is given her own sterilized internal device, so the procedure is sanitary, quick and painless.
"It takes only three minutes to treat the area," Bennack said. "We usually do three treatments, (each) a month apart. You could do it over your lunch hour really easily, and it's totally painless."
Most patients see incontinence alleviated after the first treatment. Moisture and tightness are fully recognized after the third treatment.
Smith is already seeing the difference.
"I've had two treatments now, and it's been amazing. I mean I'm 100 percent better," she said.
There is no downtime after the procedure. Patients are allowed to exercise the same day. They are allowed to shower, but hot tubs or bath tubs are off limits for one week.
"The only other restrictions are patients are to refrain from anything internal, like tampons or sex, for seven days post-procedure," Bennack said.
For Smith, the restrictions are a small price to pay to feel normal again.
"It is very much worth it. I would recommend it to anybody who is having a problem with dryness, because it really does work," she said.
"Every patient who has tried it has seen amazing results," Bennack said.
The treatments are not covered by insurance. The cost is about $1,000 per treatment. Three treatments are recommended, one month apart, to get the best results. Patients are also encouraged to have one maintenance treatment annually.
For more information about the procedure, visit the Radiance Medical Spa website.