Lichen Sclerosis Facts

Lichen Sclerosis is a skin disease. It can affect men, women or children, but it's more common in postmenopausal women. This disease makes normal skin turn thin, white in color and itchy. Lichen Sclerosis primarily affects the genital area, but other parts of the body can be affected, too.

Early symptoms

The first symptoms of this disease are usually small, white spots that have a shiny texture. Over time, the spots grow larger and the skin becomes thin and crinkled. At this point, the skin begins to tear easily and then bleeding and purple discoloration occur.

More severe symptoms

As the disease progresses severe scarring causes complications especially in the genital area. On women, the inner lips of the vulva can actually shrink or disappear. The disease can cause the clitoris to get covered with scar tissue and the opening of the vagina narrows.

Lichen sclerosis typically occurs in men who are uncircumcised. The disease makes the foreskin of the penis scar, tighten and shrink over the head of the penis.

General symptoms of Lichen Sclerosis

  • Itching
  • Discomfort especially in genital and anal areas
  • Smooth white spots that get bigger in size
  • Tenderness in affected areas
  • Bruising and bleeding
  • Painful intercourse
  • Blistering

Cause of the disease

The cause of Lichen Sclerosis is unknown. Many doctors think that an overactive immune system may be the cause. Certain people may have a genetic tendency towards this disease, and abnormal hormone levels could be involved.

Other scientists think that infectious bacteria may cause Lichen Sclerosis. They think that getting this infection affects your immune system making you more susceptible to the disease.

Menopausal women with other auto-immune disease are more likely to get Lichen Sclerosis, thus it seem likely that this disease is auto-immune related.

Treatment

Unfortunately, Lichen Sclerosis is incurable, but there are treatments that can help ease some of the symptoms and repair the damaged skin.

  • Steroids such as cortisone cream or ointments can help stop the itching and reduce inflammation.
  • Topical hormones such as testosterone and estrogen are used for rebuilding skin tissue and replacing hormone levels in the body.
  • Men can get circumcised to remove the scarred tissue areas. This usually causes the disease to go away entirely. Unfortunately, in women who have surgery to remove patches of the disease from genital areas the disease will return.
  • Retinoids such as Vitamin A drugs are often used if the cortisone treatments aren't working.
  • Ultraviolet light treatments can be used, although these treatments cannot be used on the genital areas.

Who treats Lichen Sclerosis?

The best doctor to see for treatment depends upon what skin areas have been affected by the disease. These doctors can help provide an early and accurate diagnosis.

  • Gynecologist - if the disease is affecting your genital area
  • Dermatologist - general
  • Urologist - typically men would visit a urologist if they have Lichen Sclerosis
  • Primary Care - see your primary care doctor of early symptoms and for referral to specialists

Lichen Sclerosis is a painful skin disease that affects men, women and children. It's a difficult disease to diagnosis and many doctors are unfamiliar with its symptoms. Fortunately, there are treatments to help ease the pain and discomfort of this rare disease.

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