What is lichen sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a benign and progressive skin disease that most often affects the genital area. This chronic skin condition cannot be cured but can be controlled. Lichen sclerosus is marked by itching and pain in the genital area. The skin near the opening of the vagina, called the perineum, becomes thin and inflamed. This skin disorder is common in women after menopause. Lichen sclerosus is uncommon in men and very rare in children. The condition is not contagious.

Lichen sclerosus can develop on any skin surface, but it usually occurs in the perineum. The condition can make the opening of the vagina smaller so that sexual intercourse becomes painful. Blisters and bleeding may also occur.

Lichen sclerosus starts out as small white spots on the skin. These spots are generally shiny and smooth. The spots then grow into larger patches that are thin and crinkled. This thin skin can tear easily and may be accompanied by red or purple bruises. Skin scarring may also occur with lichen sclerosus.

Lichen sclerosus of the genital skin should be treated, as it can cause problems with urination or sex. There is also a very small chance that skin cancer will develop at the site affected by lichen sclerosus. Lichen sclerosus can be treated with topical ointments or creams, and the symptoms should clear up in a few weeks.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for lichen sclerosus and mild symptoms recur or are persistent.


What are the symptoms of lichen sclerosus?

If you have a mild case of lichen sclerosus, you may not experience any symptoms. If do not have any symptoms, your health care provider will have to diagnose lichen sclerosus during your gynecologic exam. Symptomatic lichen sclerosus may cause an itching feeling, pain during urination, or pain during intercourse. You may also experience bleeding and blisters in the perineal area.

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What causes lichen sclerosus?

It is not known what causes lichen sclerosus. Some health care providers believe that lichen sclerosus is caused by an overactive immune system or a hormonal imbalance. Genetic or inherited factors may play a role in its development. Lichen sclerosus is not contagious. Lichen sclerosus may appear on skin that is damaged or scarred from a previous injury. In women, lichen sclerosus occurs most c... Read more about lichen sclerosuscauses


How is lichen sclerosus treated?

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic disease for which there is no cure. However, with proper treatment and follow-up, lichen sclerosus can be effectively controlled.

Treatment begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. A small sample of the affected skin may be removed and sent to a lab for analysis. This procedure is called a biopsy.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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