Lichen sclerosus is a skin condition that can affect the vulva (the area outside your vagina), anus, or penis. It discolours the skin, making it thin, irritated, and itchy. Blisters and sores may grow on the patient’s genitals as a result of chronic itching. Other body parts are rarely affected by these symptoms.
Lichen sclerosus, if left untreated, can cause scarring, making it difficult or uncomfortable to have intercourse, pee, or even pass a bowel movement. Even though there is no cure for lichen sclerosus, symptoms can be managed. Most symptoms can be treated by doctors, but they may return following treatment if proper care is not given. If left untreated, lichen sclerosus raises your chances of getting squamous cell carcinoma, a kind of skin cancer.
Symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus
Skin changes are caused by lichen sclerosus. Initially, one may not have any symptoms at all. However, at a later stage, there may be small white patches on the skin that may develop. Common signs include:
- Itching in the vulvar (very common)
- Itching, bleeding, or discomfort in the anal region
- Bruising and tearing of the skin during intercourse
- Easy bleeding from minor skin rubbing
- Having difficulty peeing or experiencing urine pain
- Erections that hurt (in men)
The internal reproductive organs, such as the vagina and uterus, are not affected by lichen sclerosus.
When to see a doctor?
Consult your doctor if you have vaginal and anal discomfort, itching, or pain. It's important to find out what's causing the symptoms so you can get help. Many conditions, including sexually transmitted infections, cause symptoms similar to lichen sclerosus (STDs).
If you have lichen sclerosus and the symptoms return after the treatment, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Scarring may be avoided if symptoms are treated quickly. The doctor will also keep an eye out for any signs of skin cancer.
Scientists do not know what causes lichen sclerosus. They've determined that it's not contagious and that it can't be transferred through touch, including sexual contact. However, there are numerous hypotheses concerning what factors contribute to its growth. Here are some examples:
The liver can become infected by viruses, which results in inflammation and decreased liver function. The viruses that harm the liver can be transmitted through blood or semen, contaminated food or water, or direct contact with an infected individual. Hepatitis viruses are the most prevalent causes of liver infection, the viruses include:
- Previous skin damage or irritation in the area
- Hormone instability
- An autoimmune condition
- Predisposition due to genetics
Lichen sclerosus is more common in postmenopausal women, although it can also occur in men and children. Uncircumcised men are at a higher risk since the disease frequently affects the foreskin. Children who have not yet reached puberty are also at a risk.
- Although rare, the condition may become serious if proper care and treatment are not given.
- If HPV has affected the genital area, the patient is more prone to develop squamous cell skin cancer.
- Women with HPV are at an increased risk of developing vulvar cancer (cancer of the vulva). This could also lead to changes in the appearance of the female genitals.
- Some women may have chronic or continuous vulvar discomfort or a constriction of the vaginal opening. These issues can make intercourse difficult.
Lichen sclerosus is avoidable. You may be able to relieve symptoms by making lifestyle adjustments. Following tips may help reduce friction and irritation:
- Avoid long bike rides and horseback riding.
- Wear loose and comfortable undergarments and clothes.
- Use fragrance-free soaps and laundry detergent.
- Avoid taking bubble baths. The suds may create irritation, exacerbating the inflammation.
- Change damp swimwear and clothing as soon as possible.
Diagnosis of Lichen Sclerosus
- Anyone who develops lichen sclerosus symptoms must seek a doctor’s advice on an immediate basis.
- In cases of early detection of lichen sclerosus, therapy can be given right away. If the treatment is started on time, it may prevent the condition from worsening.
- A doctor can often make the diagnosis by conducting a physical examination of the affected areas. A small sample of skin may be examined under a microscope to establish that the condition is lichen sclerosus.
- Lichen sclerosus does not always cause symptoms. In such situations, your doctor may only be able to detect the problem when examining the affected area for another unrelated cause.
Treatment for Lichen Sclerosus
Unfortunately, there is no treatment or cure to totally eliminate lichen sclerosus. There are, however, techniques to reduce or lessen the symptoms so that one can live with them comfortably. Few treatment options are:
- Topical corticosteroids, which are frequently used on a daily basis
- In extreme situations involving uncircumcised penises, the foreskin is removed.
- Treatment with ultraviolet light for afflicted rashes that are not on the genitals
- Immunosuppressive drugs such as pimecrolimus, ciclosporin, or methotrexate
- Other drugs, such as oral corticosteroids or retinoids
A doctor can prescribe vaginal dilators, a water-based lubricant, or, if necessary, numbing cream for people suffering painful sexual intercourse due to vaginal tightness. Other precautions might include:
- Washing the affected area with a soft, non-soap cleanser on a regular basis
- Avoid wearing clothes that might cause friction in the area.
- Avoid bike and horseback riding
- Applying moisturiser to the skin to reduce irritation and dryness and to provide a protective layer
Lifestyle changes and Selfcare
Whether or not you are receiving treatment, the following self-care tips may be beneficial:
- Usage of lubricant on the affected area.
- Gentle wash and pat drying of the afflicted region on a daily basis. Avoid using strong soaps and taking too many baths.
- Oatmeal solutions, sitz baths, ice packs, or cool compresses can help relieve burning and discomfort.
- Take an antihistamine at night to help decrease itching while you sleep.
Dos and Don’ts
Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin disorder characterised by itching, discomfort, and blistering. The illness mainly affects women over the age of 50, but it can affect men and children too. Typically, the skin around the exterior portion of the vagina (vulva) and around the anus is damaged. It is commonly seen at the tip of the penis in men. The condition does not improve on its own and needs medical treatment such as corticosteroids, various creams, or surgery. By following these do's and don'ts, one might prevent serious consequences of the condition.
|Reduce Physical and Emotional Stress||Wear tights and other tight clothing.|
|Get adequate sleep||Take too much stress|
|Practice Good Hygiene Habits||Stay in swimsuits or wet clothing for long periods of time.|
|Consume calcium-rich foods or take a calcium citrate supplement on a daily basis.||Touch the sores|
|To help cleanse out the system, drink plenty of water and other low-oxalate liquids.||Avoid the changes and symptoms in the body|
Taking regular precautions and self-care will help you fight the condition positively and improve your overall quality of life.
Care at Medicover Hospitals
At Medicover, we have the best team of Dermatologists and infectious disease specialists working together to provide treatment for Lichen Sclerosus. Our doctors use the best diagnostic procedures and technologies to accurately diagnose the condition and prepare a treatment plan that is personalised as per your specific needs. For Lichen Sclerosus, our medical team works with close precision to evaluate the severity of the condition and guides patients on the most suited treatment and self-care measures for faster and sustained recovery.