Women with lichen sclerosus often put off going to their doctor because they have never heard of the condition and are embarrassed by the symptoms. However, if the disease is left untreated it can cause debilitating symptoms. So, here’s what you need to know about lichen sclerosus!
What is Lichen Sclerosus?
Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin condition that mainly affects the skin of the vulva. The vulva is the external genitalia consisting of the labia minora, labia majora, vestibule, and clitoral hood.
What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?
The etiology of lichen sclerosus is unknown, but evidence suggests it could be a genetic or autoimmune disorder.
Who is at Risk?
Although lichen sclerosus can affect women of any age, it is very common in postmenopausal women.
What are the Symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus?
Itching of the vulva is the primary symptom of lichen sclerosus. The itching can be so intense it’s impossible to resist scratching, and this can cause tiny fissures and lead to permanent scarring. Other symptoms of lichen sclerosus include soreness, pain, and skin bruising.
Lichen sclerosus causes the skin to feel sticky, tight, and dry and appear shiny and wrinkly. It also creates patches of white skin.
When lichen sclerosus progresses, it can cause labial fusion, a condition where the labia minora fuses into the labia majora. Labial fusion can alter the sensitivity of the clitoris.
How is Lichen Sclerosus Diagnosed?
Lichen sclerosus can be diagnosed by examining the patient’s genital skin. However, not many gynecologists have the experience required to diagnose and treat the condition.
Lichen sclerosus is particularly difficult to diagnose in the early stages because the changes to the skin are very subtle and may not be obvious. Consequently, mild cases often go undiagnosed. If you are experiencing symptoms of lichen sclerosus, it is crucial to consult with a gynecologist with the relevant expertise.
Board-certified gynecologist Dr. R. Stuart Fowler, the founding physician of Fowler GYN International, has significant experience diagnosing and treating lichen sclerosus.
How Is Lichen Sclerosus Treated?
Once lichen sclerosus develops, it lasts for a long time, but with prompt treatment it is possible to manage the symptoms successfully, and reduce the progression. Severe cases of lichen sclerosus can be treated with potent corticosteroids, while mild to moderate cases can be managed with low-dose corticosteroids.