An anti-aging treatment, made famous by Kim Kardashian, could ease pain for women with painful, intimate skin conditions.
A platelet-rich plasma (PRP) facial — also known as a “vampire facial” — is said to plump and rejuvenate the skin by injecting the patient’s own blood into their face. But now private clinics are using 1,350 pounds of PRP injections in intimate areas to treat lichen sclerosus, which causes dry, damaged skin to form around the genitals.
Patients have told The Mail on Sunday of remarkable improvements to damaged skin after treatment.
Kim Kardashian, pictured, had a vampire facial that involved injecting a patient’s own blood back into their skin
It is hoped that the treatment could provide relief for as many as a million British women suffering from the painful complaint. Pictured, Kim Kardashian at the annual Hollywood Beauty Awards in Los Angeles in February 2019
Despite this, only one high-quality study has tested its efficacy — and the findings were inconclusive. Researchers found no significant difference in genital skin quality between one group injected with PRP and another with saline.
Since only 29 patients participated in the study, the scientists concluded that more studies are needed to determine whether PRP works for lichen sclerosus.
But experts have echoed the desperate need for new treatments and further research into this condition that affects around a million British women.
dr. Louise Hayes, consultant gynecologist at York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, says: ‘Lichen sclerosus has always been a neglected area of research and women are turning to treatments that have not yet been supported by studies because they are desperate.’
She adds, “Hopefully, the increasing interest in menopausal health will help researchers get the funding they need for larger studies of PRP.”
Scientists don’t know exactly what causes lichen sclerosus, but it’s thought to be caused by a malfunction in the immune system.
It can affect both men and women, but usually develops in women after menopause.
Sufferers see white, irritated, itchy, and blister-like patches appear around the vulva, vagina, and anus. The skin may tear and bleed.
If left untreated, the skin hardens, becomes tight and can form scar tissue over the entrance to the vagina and urethra — the tube through which urine leaves the body, so sex and going to the toilet become extremely painful.
Currently, the only treatment available is steroid cream, which can be prescribed by a primary care physician to reduce inflammation. But this only provides temporary relief from irritation and does not repair damaged tissue.
Currently, the only treatment available is steroid cream, which can be prescribed by a primary care physician to reduce inflammation. But this only provides temporary relief from irritation and does not repair damaged tissue
PRP therapy, which lasts an hour, works by using the body’s healing ability to regenerate damaged skin. PRP facials became a sensation in 2013 after social media and TV star Kardashian had the procedure.
For lichen sclerosus, a numbing cream is first applied to the affected intimate area. A blood sample is then taken from a vein in the patient’s arm. The blood is placed in a centrifuge — a device that spins the blood with high force to extract special healing cells called platelets. Plasma, the liquid part of blood that contains essential repair cells, is also extracted.
Both are then injected into each affected area of the genitals and this stimulates the release of proteins and hormones that help new, healthy tissue grow. dr. Shirin Lakhani, an Elite Aesthetics dermatologist in Kent who offers the treatment, says: ‘The treatment makes the body believe there is an injury and goes into recovery mode. It makes diseased tissue healthy again.’
Susan Wood, 59, from Yorkshire, says PRP therapy has relieved her of the stinging and soreness caused by lichen sclerosus. The former teacher first noticed symptoms in 2018 when she started having painful tears during sex.
“I noticed patches of skin were white and often bled after going to the toilet or having sex,” she says.
After suffering in silence for six months, Susan visited her primary care physician, who diagnosed her with lichen sclerosus and prescribed steroids. These calmed flare-ups, but didn’t remove the painful scar tissue that had formed. Susan says, “I struggled for years because I was told the condition was incurable. Eventually the pain became too much, and luckily I heard about Dr. Lakhani.’
Susan underwent therapy in May. Within a few weeks, the skin looked healthy and firm – and the scars had softened. She says, “Sex isn’t uncomfortable anymore because I don’t tear. It has made a huge difference in my life.’
dr. Lakhani says the therapy has helped 80 per cent of her patients and wants the treatment made available to everyone – as it is already available on the NHS to help repair joint injuries, including severe arthritis.
dr. Hayes says, “I’m aware that PRP works for some people. But it’s hard to know if the effect is somewhat psychological — what scientists call a placebo. So we need large numbers of patients before we know for sure whether it works or not.’
dr. Paula Briggs, president of the British Menopause Society, said it was important to “keep an open mind” about treatment.
‘PRP is growing in popularity and appears to be doing little harm,’ says Dr Briggs, who is also a sexual health and reproduction advisor for the Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust.
‘NICE [the body that sanctions NHS treatments] will only recommend therapies that are supported by high-quality clinical trials.”
But just because something isn’t NICE-approved doesn’t mean it’s useless, she says, adding that while controversial, laser therapy is highly effective for women with incontinence — but NICE says it won’t approve it until it’s approved. is more high-quality trials.
Susan Wood is convinced that PRP should be available on the NHS.
‘This disease can affect your mental health, your identity as a woman and your sex life. But this therapy has given me hope,” she says.
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