Lichen sclerosus is characterized by white patches on skin which may result in scarring on and around genital region. The cause of lichen sclerosus is not known. It is also known as lichen sclerosus et atrophicus. It is not a contagious disease.
Though the exact cause is not known various theories have been put forward.
- Autoimmune disorder is one of the likely causes of lichen sclerosus. Body fails to recognize its own cells and may react adversely.
- Women who have low oestrogen level are more prone to develop lichen sclerosus. Thus postmenopausal women are more susceptible to lichen sclerosus.
- Uncircumcised men are likely to develop lichen sclerosus as foreskin of penis is frequently affected with lichen sclerosus.
Signs And Symptoms Of Lichen Sclerosus
Many a times lichen sclerosus remains asymptomatic. Lichen sclerosus can affect skin of any part of the body. Frequently it affects vulva and anal region in women and foreskin of penis in males. White patches appear on the affected skin. White patches may be elevated and glistening. It is associated with severe itching and discomfort. Sometimes there will be blister formation.
In severe cases one may see ulcerative lesions and bleeding. Intercourse will be painful. Scarring will lead to shrinking of genital and perianal area resulting in painful micturition, coitus and defecation. Thinning of affected skin may be present. Tightening of foreskin may lead to phimosis. Persistent lichen sclerosus may result in development of skin cancer. Lichen sclerosus may continue for many months.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis is done by visual inspection of the lesion. Skin biopsy is conducted if necessary.
Treatment Options For Lichen Sclerosus
Consult your doctor to rule out skin cancer. Asymptomatic or mild lichen sclerosus does not require any treatment. Children who are affected with lichen sclerosus get spontaneously cured at puberty.
- If lichen sclerosus has affected genital area or if it is severe, local application of steroid cream is advised.
- Male who do not respond to medication are advised to go for circumcision if foreskin is involved. Surgery is not recommended for women.
- Stress is one of the important factors that contribute to autoimmune disorder. Meditation and relaxation techniques will help to balance your system.
- Sitz bath can be taken to relieve skin complaints.
- Ingestion of herbal tea may prove helpful.
- Calendula has healing properties. It has antibacterial, anti-fungal properties which will help to heal lichen sclerosus lesions.
- Red clover has been used to treat lichen sclerosus in menopausal women and it is found to be effective.
- Witch hazel acts like an astringent and it prevents over drying of the skin. It also prevents secondary infection in the lesion.
- Comfrey is a wonderful tissue healer. It can be used in the treatment of lichen sclerosus.
- Person suffering from lichen sclerosus must get himself checked from doctor regularly to detect changes in the skin which may result in development of cancer.
- Person suffering from lichen sclerosus may get distressed due to long lasting symptoms and may have depression or irritability. Psychological counseling will be able to help such patients.