If the skin around your genitals gets sticky, wrinkled, shiny, itchy, and possibly slightly whitened, you should have it checked, because you may be suffering from Lichen Sclerosus. Since it is one of the lesser known skin conditions, it’s important to be able to identify the signs of the disorder. Lichen Sclerosus is commonly a cause of vulvar skin itching that often feels like recurrent yeast infections (click here).
Signs of Lichen Sclerosus
Lichen Sclerosus is a benign skin condition. It is classified in the group skin dermatoses which includes other more common conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and seborrhea that causes dandruff. Like all of these, once diagnosed, Lichen Sclerosus is a chronic condition that needs ongoing treatment to keep suppressed. It causes the dermis layer of the skin to thin out giving the genital tissues a more shiny and wrinkly appearance. The skin gets sticky and the labia begin to fuse together between the labia minora and labia majora and over the midline above and below the clitorus as well in the base of the vagina known as the posterior fourchette. These changes characteristically cause itching. If the skin pulls apart where it has fused by wearing tight clothing or intercourse, cracks or fissures can occur which can cause staining and burning. White spots or large slightly whitened areas commonly occur known as hypopigmentation. When the whitening first appears, it usually appears smooth and shiny, but if left untreated over the years it has the propensity to lead to per-cancer and then cancer of the vulva. Overall this occurs infrequently in about 5% of cases.
As the disease progresses, it can cause the lips of the vagina, (labia minora and the labia majora), to fuse together and the small lips or labia minora may totally dissapear. If the fusion takes place in the midline over the clitorus or in the back of the vaginal opening known as the the perineal body and posterior fourchette, it can cause the vaginal opening to shrink in diameter, resulting in painful intercourse with possible tearing of the tissues.
Treatment for Lichen Sclerosus
Medical science has not yet determined the cause of Lichen Sclerosus, but some physicians believe it may be related to an autoimmune process. There is also no cure for the disorder, but the signs and symptoms can be significantly managed and reduced or eliminated if treated early enough (learn more).
At Fowler Gyn International (FGI), in Phoenix, AZ, they receive a lot of patients referred to them for treatment of women who get recurrent symptoms. They had observed that most physicians in this country are treating this condition only with use of episodic super-potent corticosteriod creams. They have devised a more effective approach that includes maintenance therapy to keep the condition from recurring. If you think you are experiencing signs of Lichen Sclerosus, don’t hesitate to contact FGI today at 480-420-4001, and schedule a consultation with Dr. R. Stuart Fowler. You can also go online to www.fowlergyninternational.com/contact-us.