Feb. 25, 2011 at 9:23 AM ET
Wrinkle-busting Botox has long been used to rev up the sex lives of women who blame waning allure on facial lines and creases, but doctors now say the injections can help smooth problems below the belt as well.
The newest use for botulinum Toxin A, the active ingredient in drugs such as Botox or Dysport, is to help ease painful vaginal conditions that plague women with excruciating burning sensations or constrict their muscles so tightly that sex is all but impossible.
“Almost to a patient, they say it’s like hitting a brick wall,” said Dr. Peter T. Pacik, a New Hampshire plastic surgeon who is conducting an FDA-approved clinical trial testing the use of Botox on severe cases of vaginismus. “Most patients I treat are unable to consummate, unable to have a family.”
Such patients – perhaps as many as 6 percent of all women worldwide – suffer from what Pacik describes as a reflex reaction to sexual penetration that causes their muscles to spasm. The problem is often rooted in fear caused by sexual abuse or a rigid upbringing, but it becomes unmistakably physical.
“It’s uncontrollable and involuntary,” said Pacik, the author of “When Sex Seems Impossible: Stories of Vaginismus & How You Can Achieve Intimacy.”
To treat the problem, Pacik injects the muscles at the entrance of the vagina with Botox, which works as it does in the face, interrupting nerve impulses and allowing the muscles to relax.
“When I inject them, I put them asleep,” he said. “You would not be able to approach these people with a needle.”
When they wake up, the women find that they are relaxed enough to allow penetration and, soon, to have normal sex with their husbands or partners. Pacik has treated 78 patients so far and all but one have virtually been cured after a single session, he said.
His work was echoed this week by a new report in the journal Archives of Dermatologythat said a 26-year-old woman was cured of vulvodynia, an excruciating, persistent burning vaginal pain, with the use of botulinum Toxin A injections.
And it was confirmed by Patti Dyer, a 59-year-old Maine nurse who said she has suffered from vaginismus for more than 30 years. Despite having three children, all delivered by cesarean section, Dyer said sex has always been painful to the point of tears. She and her husband, Bill, toughed it out because of their love for each other, she said. But when she heard about Pacik’s work, she had to try it.
On Jan. 10, Dyer had the $6,300 Botox treatment. Within two weeks, she said, she and her husband were able to have sex for the first time in a dozen years. With a month, they were catching up on lost time.
“We’re like honeymooners,” she said. “This is so exciting. This is what it should have been 30 years ago.”
Dyer would recommend Botox down below to anyone suffering like she was. But when it comes to using the drug in her face, she draws the line.
“Oh, no,” she said. “I’m not that vain. It’s just for the part that needs it.”