About Lichen Sclerosus
This condition creates patchy, white skin in the affected areas, which appears thinner than usual, and mostly is thinner than usual in many places. Anyone, male or female, can get LS, but post-menopausal women seem to be at a higher risk.
Although symptoms and signs usually affect the skin of the genital areas, the skin of the upper body, upper arms and breasts may also be affected.
Here are some of the more common symptoms:
- Constant itching of the patchy areas of skin
- Discomfort or pain in the genital and anal areas
- Smooth white patches, which may sometimes be blotchy and wrinkled, on the skin
- Tearing or bleeding patches, or blistering sores may also appear
- Painful sex
Make a plan to visit the doctor if any of the above symptoms are present
What causes LS?
The actual cause of Lichen Sclerosus is not known. Studies have suggested that an over-active immune system or an imbalance of hormones, may play a role. However, researchers agree that it is not contagious, and cannot be spread by sexual intercourse.
It often happens in post-menopausal women, but also occurs in men and boys. Those most at risk are uncircumcised males, as the condition generally affects the foreskin. Complications of LC include painful sex, urinary retention, constipation, and an inability to retract the foreskin.
People suffering with severe Lichen Sclerosus, are also at risk of developing Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which is a skin condition similar to Basal Cell Carcinoma, but with a different appearance - more like open eczema sores. A specialist dermatologist would be the best person to consult.
LS is not a curable condition, but there are treatments available which can help with the symptoms and even provide remissions for extended periods. The most commonly prescribed ointments or creams for LS are known as cortico-steroids, which are a type of anti-inflammatory ointments containing cortisone and prednisone. Treatments with these cortico-steroids are very helpful to reduce itching, improve your skin’s appearance, and decrease further scarring from tearing or bleeding of the paper-thin areas.
Unfortunately, the ointment may have to be used daily for several weeks, until the doctor suggests cutting down to twice a week, to prevent a recurrence occurring. The doctor will also monitor you for side effects of prolonged use, such as further thinning of the skin.
Removal of the foreskin (circumcision) for men and boys whose issues with LS are not resolved by ointments or other means, is a common treatment in more advanced stubborn cases. The procedure is perfectly safe and the doctor might send a small tissue sample away for testing purposes.
However, surgery in the genital areas of women is not recommended, as there is a good chance that the LS may just recur, and possibly require more surgery.
A good diet and a strong immune system, will help to keep flare-ups of Lichen Sclerosus to a bare minimum.
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