With the latest advances in technology and increasing openness in the handling of women’s health in the media, the women’s health market is transforming rapidly. A huge area – from reproductive health to menopause – women’s healthcare is emerging as a central focus in healthcare companies around the world, including aesthetic clinics. From pelvic floor-training chairs to vaginal rejuvenation treatments, the latest technologies are making it possible for women to manage and treat their health throughout the key stages in their life, providing a more precise and personalised treatment approach than ever before. As women’s health treatments are being offered more and more in aesthetic clinics, we take a look at common indications, causes and treatments available.
Dr Selena Langdon, founder and medical director of Berkshire Aesthetics says:
“We offer women’s health treatments that extend beyond the more traditional appearance-based treatments and now include those that influence function as well as form. There is a natural extension from a discussion about how a patient is feeling about their appearance to their wellbeing in general, and intimate concerns for women play a big part in their self-esteem. Aesthetic medicine is very much about helping patients to not only look good but feel good too.”
Dr Shirin Lakhani, intimate health specialist and founder of Elite Aesthetics adds:
“Our patient base is fairly evenly spread and varies from menopausal patients looking to treat imbalanced hormones and the associated symptoms, to new mums who have concerns about vaginal laxity or leakage after childbirth and then those wishing to treat sexual dysfunction with treatments for vaginal atrophy, lichen sclerosis and pigmentation.
We look after our eyes, our skin and our heart – so why wouldn’t this extend to our intimate health?
I have seen a significant number of patients whose lives have been completely transformed by regaining control of their intimate health and so it remains vital for me to offer these services within my clinic as well as to work to extend our treatment offering with highly effective and safe treatments based on clinical backing.”
Vaginal dryness, which typically affects more than a third of post-menopausal women.
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom of the menopause. During menopause, when oestrogen levels start to drop, the vaginal walls become thinner, less elastic and less lubricated. This often results in debilitating symptoms such as vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse and can even make it difficult to sit, stand and urinate. Vaginal dryness can also be caused following some gynaecological cancers or breast cancer due to the surgical removal of ovaries, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and the inability to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
There are treatments available specifically for vaginal dryness, which many aesthetic practitioners offer in their clinics. These include minimally invasive vaginal laser treatments such as MonaLisa Touch, FemiLift or UltraFemme360 which, using CO2, stimulate the production of collagen, rehydrating and tightening the membrane lining of the vaginal wall. The new collagen and elastin growth improves lubrication and restores the strength and elasticity of the vaginal walls. Other treatments include platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy to stimulate cell growth and tissue regeneration; and more temporary measures including water-based lubricants and vaginal moisturisers.
Excessive hair growth, also known as hirsutism, is where women experience thick, dark hair on their face, neck, chest, tummy, lower back, buttocks or thighs.
Hirsutism is caused by an increase in hormones called androgens, with the most common cause being polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which affects around one in ten women in the UK, according to the NHS. Excessive hair growth is a main symptom, along with irregular periods and enlarged ovaries. It can drastically affect a patient’s confidence but, unlike other symptoms, it can be controlled.
Taking a contraceptive pill or losing weight may help control hormone levels and lessen the amount of hair growth, however longer-term solutions include laser hair removal and electrolysis, which can provide fast, effective, long-lasting results. Laser hair removal uses brief pulses of light energy to damage or destroy the root of each individual hair follicle, which prevents regrowth. As patients progress through their treatment course, the hairs become softer and finer, and growth will gradually slow down, resulting in up to 90 per cent permanent hair reduction.
Bladder weakness which, according to Bladder and Bowel UK, 14 million people in the UK experience at some point in their lives. There are different types of bladder weakness, including stress incontinence, which is when urine leaks out at times when the bladder is under pressure, for example following a laugh or sneeze as a result of weak pelvic floor muscles; and urge incontinence, which is when urine leaks due to a sudden, intense urge to urinate, which is often associated with an overactive bladder.
Common causes of stress incontinence include pregnancy and vaginal birth as a result of the pelvic floor being stretched. Menopause is also a common cause as pelvic floor muscles begin to relax with age and levels of oestrogen start to drop, resulting in the thinning of the urethral and vaginal tissues.
There are numerous treatment options for bladder weakness, including pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle changes such as losing weight and cutting down on caffeine and alcohol. Another option, which is available at many aesthetic clinics, is the Emsella Chair, which uses High-Intensity Focused Electromagnetic (HIFEM) frequencies to target the pelvic floor muscles, causing the muscles to contract and release, in the same way standard Kegel exercises do. However, with the Emsella chair, the muscles are given a workout equivalent to 11,000 Kegel exercises per treatment.
Acne, which is a common skin condition that affects more than 90 per cent of the world’s population at some point in their lives.
Although acne affects both genders, it is a common concern for women as acne often appears when patients experience fluctuations in hormones, for example during puberty, the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Hormonal acne typically appears in the T-zone of the face, including the forehead, nose and chin, as well as the cheeks and jawline.
There are numerous treatment options available for acne, including topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics and retinoids. Chemical peels can also be an effective solution for patients with stubborn acne, which clear excessive sebum and dead cells, resulting in smoother, more rejuvenated skin. Ablative and non-ablative laser treatment can be used to treat mild to moderate acne scarring, and microdermabrasion is another treatment option for mild acne.
As many women’s health treatments concern intimate areas, it is important to really understand your patient’s needs during consultation in order to find the right solution for them.
Dr Shirin says, “There is now an immense pressure on patients to fit into various beauty ideals and this extends to our anatomical parts too. Most of the women we see are seeking help for functional issues. It is important to understand why each patient is interested in a procedure before we treat, so that we can tailor the treatment to their individual needs. Occasionally, I see women who feel pressured to change the appearance of their vulva and in those situations, I feel education on the wide range of what is ‘normal’ should come before embarking on procedures. Often it is just reassurance that is required.”
Dr Selena concludes, “Practitioners looking to offer women’s health treatments should ensure they have the appropriate skills, qualifications, knowledge, and experience. It is important to also understand that consulting on women’s health issues requires a very different approach compared to the typical aesthetic patient. Do your research when looking at technologies and ensure you have selected those that have been thoroughly tested for their safety and efficacy. Women’s health is a growing field and can bring a very interesting aspect to your clinic.”
It is of course very important to make sure your medical malpractice insurance covers you for any women’s health treatments that you are carrying out. At Hamilton Fraser, we can arrange competitive insurance for specialised cosmetic surgery practices and our policy can be tailored to your specific needs as your business develops. You can find out more about the treatments we insure here. This list is continually being updated as new treatments become available to the market. If you are practising a cosmetic treatment which is not listed, please give us a call on 0800 6343 881.