Understanding Lichen Sclerosus

lichen sclerosus

Lichen Sclerosus: Understanding Symptoms and Risks

Lichen sclerosus can painfully change women’s lives, putting greater health at risk and compromising intimate relationships.  

Although initial symptoms may mimic those of more common vaginal and vulvar irritations and illness, there are distinct signs that indicate lichen sclerosus. Pain and irritation of the vulvar skin should be taken seriously and treated immediately. 

What is Lichen Sclerosus? 

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin disease typically seen in postmenopausal women over age 50. Its painful, itching lesions look like white patches of wrinkly, thin skin on the vulva, anus and entire urogenital area.  

The cycle of painful lesions and scarring can last for years. Women can experience permanent scarring and are at an increased risk for vulvar cancer.  

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How do I Know if I Have Lichen Sclerosus? 

Some people have no symptoms, while others may experience itchiness, discomfort, blistering and in severe cases scarring that can affect bodily functions. 

Signs of lichen sclerosus include: 

  • Itching  
  • Pain 
  • Smooth white patches on vulvar skin 
  • Thin, wrinkled patches of skin 
  • Spots and patches that grow or change over time 
  • Blistering or ulcerated sores 
  • Red, irritated vulvar skin 
  • Painful sex 
  • Skin that easily tears and bruises 
  • Painful scarring 

Lichen sclerosus affects the genital and anal areas including the vulva, labia, clitoris, perineal area and the anus. Painful urination and sharp pains or a feeling of tearing during fecal elimination are signs of lichen sclerosus.  

If you suspect you have lichen sclerosus, it’s important to be diagnosed and begin treatment as soon as possible to help prevent complications if the disease progresses. 

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Is Lichen Sclerosus a Fungal Infection? 

The pain, itching and patchiness of lichen sclerosus may be similar to symptoms of a fungal skin infection, but so far research has not linked the condition to a fungus, virus or bacteria. 

What Causes Lichen Sclerosus? 

The condition is consistent with an autoimmune disorder. Researchers believe something may trigger antibodies to attack healthy areas of the skin. Often, women who are diagnosed with lichen sclerosus may experience symptoms of other autoimmune diseases.   

However, lichen sclerosus has also been tied to genetic factors, hormonal imbalances or damage related to injured skin, trauma and scarring. 

Is Lichen Sclerosus Contagious? 

Lichen sclerosus is not contagious. It is not a sexually transmitted disease. 

Can I Treat Lichen Sclerosus with Over-the-Counter Medications? 

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. 

Depending on the severity of the case, providers may recommend calcipotriol cream, topical and systemic retinoids, or systemic steroids. 

What is the Best Way to Quickly Treat and Heal Lichen Sclerosus? 

Dr. Michael Coyle has invented a ground-breaking treatment, the new TULIP® procedure, that uses a mixture of PRP and ProFractional™ laser therapies to treat lichen sclerosus. Sciton’s ProFractional laser system creates a grid where the laser targets tissue with a high affinity to water. Its customizable system allows us to adjust the depth of treatment for each woman to optimize healing.

A single TULIP® treatment is all you need to be relieved of all signs and symptoms of lichen sclerosus. Dr. Coyle is the only physician that offers this revolutionary treatment option that only takes three days from start to finish. On the first day, patients will have a full exam, evaluation and biopsy, if needed. Within 24 hours, Dr. Coyle then has the information he needs to customize treatment using the unique adjustable depth features of the ProFractional™ laser. On the third day, the patient is treated and is then cleared to return home.

Even if they aren’t painful or itchy, patches and lesions should be treated to prevent scarring, which can interfere with normal urination, elimination and sexual intercourse.  

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Associated Risks 

Common complications of lichen sclerosus are tied back to the pain caused by skin fusions. The condition causes painful sex, but also urinary retention and constipation as women try to avoid pain and further irritating tissues.  

Women with lichen sclerosus are also at an increased risk of vulvar cancer. At Coyle Institute we closely monitor lichen sclerosus so we can detect any changes that may indicate cancer risk.  

Our team at Coyle Institute has experience in successfully treating and managing lichen sclerosus. With vigilance and care, women can get relief and return to a pain-free life and happier intimate relationships. 

Early treatment is imperative to prevent scarring and other risks associated with lichen sclerosus. If you are concerned about itching, pain or other symptoms that could indicate lichen sclerosus, call us today at 850-637-8258 to schedule your TULIP® procedure.

©2019 Dr. Michael J. Coyle