Micro-ablative fractional CO2 laser treatment applied to the vulvar vestibule could relieve pain for women with vestibulodynia and genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM), according to a recent pilot study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Vestibulodynia refers to pain in the vestibule area, just outside of the vaginal entrance. The area is quite sensitive, and women with vestibulodynia may feel pain with just a touch. For many, penetrative sex is difficult.
GSM can also lead to vulvar pain. At menopause, a woman’s estrogen levels naturally decline. Because estrogen is important for a woman’s genital health, this decline can lead to dryness and irritation in the vaginal and vulvar areas.
In the pilot study, researchers examined the effectiveness and safety of micro-ablative fractional CO2 laser treatment, which is sometimes used for skin restoration. Past studies have investigated this treatment for vaginal dryness, burning, and itching in women with GSM.
The participants were divided into two groups. Group 1 consisted of thirty-seven women with vestibulodynia; Group 2 included thirty-three post-menopausal women over age 50 who had vulvar pain related to GSM. Each woman had three treatment sessions during a thirty-day period. Each treatment lasted for an average of seven minutes. None of the women needed anesthesia or analgesia.
Pain and vestibular health were assessed at baseline and again at four-, eight-, and twelve-week points after the last treatment session, with a final evaluation four months after treatment.
None of the women experienced major side effects. Three participants reported a burning sensation afterward, but this went away within six days.
Over the follow-up period, women in both groups reported less pain and saw improvements in their vestibular health.
About two-thirds of the women in the vestibulodynia group (Group 1) felt their situation was “improved” or “very improved.” Satisfaction information was not provided for the women in the GSM group.
The authors called for further research in this area.
“Placebo-controlled studies with longer follow-up are needed to further support these data,” they wrote.
International Society for Sexual Medicine
“What is genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM)?”
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
Murina, Filippo, et al.
“Fractional CO2 Laser Treatment of the Vestibule for Patients with Vestibulodynia and Genitourinary Syndrome of Menopause: A Pilot Study”
(Full-text. Published online: November 15, 2016)
Vulval Pain Society
“Vestibulodynia (formerly vulval vestibulitis)”