A desperate woman living with an “embarrassing” skin issue that affects her genitals has turned to a doctor for help with surprise results.
A woman who has lived with an agonising condition that causes the skin on her genitals to “split” has turned to an extreme treatment in a bid to fix her “broken vagina” and restore her sex life.
Sam, 44, has lichen sclerosus, an incurable and inflammatory skin condition that makes causes patches of skin to become thickened and crinkly and most commonly affects skin around the vulva or anus.
As a result, the mum-of-one from Essex, UK has suffered with soreness, skin “splits” and vaginal dryness since she was 14.
Doctors initially misdiagnosed her condition, but a visit to a gynaecologist who performed a biopsy when Sam was 34 eventually led to a diagnosis.
However, medical experts struggled to find a treatment that would last, despite initial success with a new stem cell treatment where fat was taken from Sam’s legs and injected into her vagina to promote healthier skin.
In a desperate last ditch attempt to enjoy pain-free sex, the woman turned to the recently revived British TV show Embarrassing Bodies for help.
“I’m an open, confident person, and most people who know me know about my ‘broken vagina’, as I call it, but it did take me a while to decide whether or not to do the series,” Sam told The Sun.
“If I can help just one person that’s reason enough for being brave enough to do it.”
As a teenager, Sam said she remembers “really suffering” with the symptoms of the condition, which include itching and painful “splits”.
“I couldn’t wear tampons, thongs (G-strings) or jeans. I’d have to just keep still because it was so uncomfortable, and that went on for years,” she said.
“I went to the sexual health clinic and to see doctors but was constantly told it was thrush and advised to use creams such as Canesten.”
But after suffering an agonising split for the first time on holiday in 2011, Sam became more worried.
“It was embarrassing and painful,” she recalled.
“I was prescribed Lidocaine to numb the area so I could have pain-free sex, but in the past I’ve gone for months without being able to have sex.
“Luckily, my partners have always been very supportive, but there have been times when I didn’t feel like a woman any more.
“It’s been soul-destroying.”
It was only after visiting a gynaecologist where a biopsy was performed that Sam was diagnosed with lichen sclerosus aged 34.
“I’d never heard of it before, but it was a relief to know what was wrong, and that there were other treatments,” she explained.
Previously, she had tried steroid and oestrogen creams, but the former only made matters worse and the latter did not improve things at all.
Next, she had surgery where excess skin from her genitals was removed in the hope it would heal back stronger, but it didn’t work.
“I was very disappointed when the skin removal didn’t work. I was hopeful it would,” Sam said.
Taking part in a clinical trial where fat was taken from her legs and injected into her vagina gave her brief relief, but despite having the procedure done twice, symptoms recently began to reappear.
It was at this moment she turned to the TV doctors for help who referred her for platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
“It’s basically where you take a sample of blood, spin it in a centrifuge to separate the red cells from the plasma and then inject the plasma – which is rich in essential healing agents – where it’s needed, in this instance into Sam’s vagina,” Dr Jane Leonard, 38, an NHS GP and cosmetic doctor based in London, explained on the show.
The principle is the same as what is known as “vampire facials”, a rejuvenating cosmetic procedure favoured by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian.
Dr Jane says: “The science behind it is really clever. There are no drugs, no down time, no side-effects.
“It’s just using the amazing healing ability of our immune system to heal another area.”
Sam couldn’t be happier with the results.
“It was a little painful, and I felt a bit swollen afterwards, but now I feel great,” she said.
“I’m wearing jeans, I’m not sore or itchy, I can have sex whenever I want. It’s just nice to know that if my symptoms do come back, there’s something I can have done, rather than thinking I’ve just got to put up with this for the rest of my life.”
– With The Sun