When you are diagnosed with lichen sclerosus, your first thought will likely be, “Where did I catch this? From a partner? From a toilet seat?”
But you can’t “catch” lichen sclerosus. Like many non-contagious conditions, lichen sclerosus shares some symptoms with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but it is not a disease that can be contracted from touching surfaces or through sexual contact. You don’t have to worry about spreading lichen sclerosus to your sexual partner.
What is Lichen Sclerosus?
Lichen sclerosus is a relatively uncommon skin issue that causes itching, patchy skin and pain in the vulvar and anal areas and can cause painful urination and lead to secondary infections. Or, in mild cases, the symptoms may not be noticeable.
Symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus
Vulvar lichen sclerosus symptoms can range from very mild to quite severe.
- Patches of white, crinkly skin
- Severe itching
- Skin that easily tears or bleeds
- Painful skin fusions and scarring
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination or defecation
What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?
Researchers don’t know the cause or trigger of lichen sclerosus but believe it may have a genetic component or be an immunological disorder. Women who experience other immunological skin issues or injuries to the vulvar skin and tissue are at higher risk for lichen sclerosus.
What Causes Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) spread through sexual contact. When you have any symptoms that affect the genitalia, your first thought may be STD
STDs have symptoms in common with each other and with lichen sclerosus, such as itching, painful urination and painful intercourse, but also have symptoms that set them apart from one another.
STDs are caused by invasive germs from outside the body, including:
- Viral, including genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and genital warts
- Bacterial, such as Syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia
- Parasitical, like Trichomoniasis
These diseases are passed through bodily fluids and skin-to-skin contact. Yeast infections can also be passed from a sexual partner. Men may not even be aware they have a yeast infection and only ask about a diagnosis when their partner has recurring infections.
What is an Autoimmune Disorder?
An autoimmune disorder occurs when your immune system begins to attack your own cells and tissues.
The immune system is always at the ready to fight and eliminate bacteria, and other foreign elements that can cause illness. White blood cells surround the invading bodies and digest them with enzymes.
In cases of autoimmune disease, these blood cells instead attack and disable a person’s normal, healthy cells and tissue. Lupus, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and arthritis are just a few of the common autoimmune diseases.
Some autoimmune diseases, like lupus and multiple sclerosis, run in families indicating a genetic component. Lichen sclerosus also has been found to cluster in families.
Some researchers believe that a diet of high-fat, high-sugar and highly processed foods can cause chronic inflammation that can set off a misdirected immune response.
If We Don’t Know the Cause, How Can We Best Treat or Manage Lichen Sclerosus?
Treatment for lichen sclerosus typically begins with topical steroids or other types of topical creams. Steroid creams encourage healing and can provide relief from itching and irritation. But topical treatment is slow in eliminating lesions and returning skin to its normal appearance and sensitivity.
At Coyle Institute, we have had groundbreaking success in treating lichen sclerosus patients with TULIP®, a treatment developed by Dr. Coyle that is a continuation of his original research on Lichen Sclerosus combined with the healing benefits of Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP.
PRP stimulates tissue rejuvenation and has been used for decades to help speed up healing processes after injury or surgery. The TULIP® alleviates the symptoms of lichen sclerosus and is also used to revitalize sexual function and satisfaction. The revolutionary therapy can help women experience a 100 percent improvement in lichen sclerosus symptoms.
Even if they aren’t causing pain or discomfort, patches and lesions should be monitored and treated to prevent scarring, which can interfere with urination and cause painful sexual intercourse.
The condition does tend to recur, and women with lichen sclerosus are also at an increased risk of vulvar cancer, so long-term follow-up care is needed.
At Coyle Institute, our goal is to give women the relief they need with early, effective treatment so they can go on to live long, healthy lives with more satisfying intimate relationships. If you are experiencing genital itching, pain, unusual skin appearance or other symptoms, call us to schedule your consultation.