RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Warning: the content of this story is of an adult nature.
About eight out of every 100 women experience vaginal pain so intense that intimacy is out of the question. To make matters worse, many are so embarrassed by it, they're unwilling to talk about it, even with their doctor.
Now there's a medical breakthrough, and it centers around a well-known injectable drug, best known for dealing with wrinkles.
In Central Virginia, the word "BOTOX" has almost become synonymous with the name Dr. Joe Niamtu and with good reason. He is the largest solo cosmetic provider of the drug in Virginia - and in the top three percent in the nationwide.
Allergan, the maker of BOTOX, sought him out as an instructor - placing Niamtu on their advisory board.
Even though Niamtu's bread and butter is making wrinkles go away, he'll be the first to tell you that the future of BOTOX is in therapeutic treatment. Niamtu knows this firsthand: his two sons, Joey and Evan, both have cerebral palsy, and BOTOX has done wonders for them.
"My sons have uncontrollable drooling, and when we inject this into the salivary glands, it slows them down and helps that. Also, there's muscle spasticity, where they can't control their muscles," said Niamtu. "My sons are not ambulatory, but there are some patients that can't walk correctly unless they have these BOTOX injections."
A Time magazine cover story touts BOTOX as a wonder drug, currently used to treat 800 health problems. Everything from migraines to heart trouble - now you can add gynecological issues to that growing list.
A local woman, we'll call "Mary," has a form of vaginismus, a contraction of the muscles that cause severe pain in her pelvic floor. She was forced to have a hysterectomy in her early 20s and now, at just 34 years old, any kind of intimacy is out of the question. She hasn't even tried in almost five years and has never had a pain-free sexual experience.
"With intercourse, the pain would be so bad, that I just could not do it, and I was like 'NO. We gotta stop,'" said Mary.
She's tried all types of drugs, even vaginally-inserted Valium and lidocane shots - which help some, but certainly don't fix the problem. It's not a desire issue, it's a pain issue.
"I'm kinda like, 'Hey baby, I'm ready to go,' but then when you go, it's still some pain, but it's bearable," said Mary.
Mary is not alone. One national study suggests eight percent of the female population has vaginal pain so intense, sex isn't possible. She's scheduled appointment with her OB/GYN to see if BOTOX would work for her. For now, weekly therapy is helping her make some small strides.
"I'm seeing what her mobility is like, what her tenderness is like, and then I can go ahead and release, depending on what's happening with the muscle," said her physical therapist.
Niamtu clearly believes that medical science has just scratched the surface when it comes to using BOTOX therapeutically to help patients like Mary.
"Allergan, the company that makes BOTOX, has two divisions: they have a cosmetic division and a therapeutic division. Although it's the most common cosmetic procedure in the world, the therapeutic side is really growing exponentially," said Niamtu.
Mary hopes to know soon if she qualifies for the BOTOX treatment.
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