Lichen Sclerosus: What is It and When to Seek Help

Are you bothered by uncomfortable itching in the vulva area?   You could be suffering from lichen sclerosus.  Lichen sclerosus is a benign skin condition that can affect any part of the skin’s surface but commonly affects the genital tissues.  But what is lichen sclerosus, and when should you seek help for symptoms. 

What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin condition that is characterized by itching of the external genitalia.   It also causes the skin to feel tight, sticky, and dry, and appear shiny and wrinkly.   Lichen sclerosus can also result in small to large white patches on the vulva.

Lichen sclerosus causes the vulvar skin to become thin and fragile, and this can lead to fissures (small tears) during intercourse or when exercising.  The persistent itching irritates the skin and causes it to become inflamed.  

Lichen sclerosus can affect women of any age but often affects postmenopausal women.  

Symptoms Of Lichen Sclerosus

Itching is the main symptom of lichen sclerosus. Other symptoms include redness, staining, pain with urination, bleeding, and pain with intercourse. 

What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?

Researchers aren’t sure what causes lichen sclerosus, but they have observed an autoimmune link among people with a genetic predisposition.  

When To Seek Help?

If you are experiencing symptoms of lichen sclerosus, it is vital to seek help early.  Lichen sclerosus is not contagious, but it should be treated promptly to ease symptoms and prevent permanent scarring of the vulva tissues.  The condition can also cause emotional discomfort in the long term. 

Left untreated, lichen sclerosus can result in the fusion of the labia majora and labia minora, which are the large and small lips of the vagina.  This change can affect the sensitivity of the clitoris and alter the size of the vagina resulting in painful intercourse. 

The experts in vaginal health at Fowler GYN International (FGI) regularly treat women with lichen sclerosus and other troubling vulvovaginal conditions.  FGI can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend an effective treatment protocol. 

Diagnosing Lichen Sclerosus

Although lichen sclerosus is not a health threat, it can cause psychological distress and adversely affect the quality of life.  Unfortunately, some women have symptoms of lichen sclerosus for months or years without getting a proper diagnosis.   This occurs because not many gynecologists have the necessary knowledge and experience to recognize the condition. 

Doctors familiar with lichen sclerosus can diagnose the condition by performing a careful physical examination of the affected area.   

When lichen sclerosus is in its early stages, the changes to the external genital skin are indistinct and can therefore be overlooked by an untrained eye.   For this reason, women with symptoms of lichen sclerosus should consult with a gynecologist who has significant experience diagnosing and treating the condition.  

Treating Lichen Sclerosus

There is currently no cure for lichen sclerosus, but it can be controlled with effective diagnosis and prompt treatment.  Mild to moderate cases of lichen sclerosus are typically treated with low-dose corticosteroids.  These drugs can be safely used to prevent the recurrence of symptoms. 

Women with lichen sclerosus often have sensitive genital tissues which can be irritated by the chemicals present in traditional hygiene products.  As a result,  FGI advises women with vulvovaginal symptoms such as itching, irritation, and redness to use hypocontactant skincare products.    

Hypocontactant skincare products are free of irritating ingredients and can cleanse and lubricate the vaginal area safely and effectively. 

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