Lichen sclerosus (LIE-kun skluh-ROW-sus) is an uncommon condition that creates patchy, white skin that's thinner than normal. Lichen sclerosus may affect skin on any part of your body, but most often involves skin of the vulva, foreskin of the penis or skin around the anus.
Anyone can get lichen sclerosus, but postmenopausal women are at highest risk. Left untreated, lichen sclerosus may lead to other complications.
You may not need treatment because sometimes lichen sclerosus improves on its own. If you do need treatment, your doctor can suggest options to return a more normal appearance to your skin and decrease the tendency for scarring.
Lichen sclerosus can affect the skin on any part of your body. Sometimes, no symptoms are present.
When they do occur, lichen sclerosus symptoms may include:
When to see a doctor
If you've already been diagnosed with lichen sclerosus, see your doctor every six to 12 months to be checked for any skin changes or treatment side effects.
Lichen sclerosus is a rare skin condition characterized by white, blotchy patches of thinning skin. ...
Lichen sclerosus in genital area
Lichen sclerosus may affect skin on any part of your body, but most often involves the skin of the vulva, foreskin of the penis or skin in the anal area. ...
The exact cause of lichen sclerosus isn't known. However, the condition may be related to a lack of sex hormones in the affected skin or to an overactive immune system. Previous skin damage at a particular site on your skin may increase the likelihood of lichen sclerosus at that location.
Although lichen sclerosus may involve skin around your genitals, it isn't contagious and cannot spread through sexual intercourse.
Lichen sclerosus occurs most often in postmenopausal women, but it also occurs in men and children. In women, lichen sclerosus usually involves the vulva. In boys and men, uncircumcised males are most at risk, because the condition generally affects the foreskin. In children, the signs and symptoms may improve at puberty.
Persistent lichen sclerosus in one location may slightly increase your risk of skin cancer, although this has not yet been definitively proved. For this reason, make sure that you have follow-up examinations every six to 12 months.
Severe lichen sclerosis can make sex extremely painful for women because itching and scarring may narrow the vaginal opening. In addition, blistering may create extremely sensitive skin to the point that any pressure on the area is unbearable.
Lichen sclerosis may rarely cause similar complications in uncircumcised men, because it causes tightening and thinning of the foreskin. This can cause problems during an erection or when urinating.
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs and symptoms common to lichen sclerosus, make an appointment with your family doctor or general practitioner. After an initial examination, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions (dermatologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Below are some basic questions to ask your doctor about possible lichen sclerosus. If any additional questions occur to you during your visit, don't hesitate to ask.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Your doctor may diagnose lichen sclerosus based on:
Treatments and drugs
If your genital area isn't affected, you may not need treatment for lichen sclerosis, especially if you're not having symptoms. Lichen sclerosis often gets better on its own.
If you have lichen sclerosus on or around your genitals or anus, or have a more advanced case on other parts of your body, your doctor will recommend treatment. Treatments help reduce itching, improve your skin's appearance and decrease further scarring.
Other treatment options
Topical sex hormones are sometimes prescribed to treat lichen sclerosus, but recent research suggests that these medications aren't as effective for this condition as the treatments above.
For men with lichen sclerosus on the foreskin, removal of the foreskin (circumcision) is a common treatment in cases resistant to other therapies or more advanced cases. Surgery in the genital or anal area generally isn't recommended for women with lichen sclerosus because the condition may just come back after surgery.
Last Updated: 2012-10-11
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