The diagnosis of an intimate health condition can send you into a panic! Especially if it’s something you may have never heard of before.
If you are diagnosed with lichen sclerosus, you’ll want to know, what causes it? Is it contagious? Can it be treated? Good news is it’s not contagious – and it can be treated.
While a definite cause has not been determined, there are risk factors that can be assessed.
What is lichen sclerosus?
Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin disorder that usually affects the skin of the outer genitalia. This skin condition most often affects post-menopausal women. The disease causes skin changes of the external genitalia. Skin becomes itchy and spotted with thin, white, crinkly patches that tear and bleed easily. Lichen sclerosus isn’t contagious and cannot be spread through sexual intercourse. Infections can cause similar symptoms but usually do not cause the typical skin changes of lichen sclerosus However, an infection can occur together with lichen sclerosus.
What are the symptoms of lichen sclerosus?
Sometimes, mild cases of lichen sclerosus cause no noticeable signs or symptoms.
When they do occur, lichen sclerosus symptoms may include:
- Severe itching
- Discomfort or pain
- Smooth white spots on your skin
- Thin, crinkly patches of skin
- Vulvar skin that easily bruises or tears
- Painful fusion (sticking together) of vulvar skin
- Blisters or ulcerated lesions
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination or defecation caused by irritation, fusion and scarring
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What causes lichen sclerosus?
The exact cause or causes of lichen sclerosus are not known, but it is not contagious nor is it a sexually transmitted disease. It is not considered to be an infection. Some possible causes include:
- Immunological condition – Autoimmune disorders arise when the body’s natural defenses against “foreign” or invading organisms mistakenly attack and injure the skin. Women with lichen sclerosus are at higher risk of developing other autoimmune disorders, such as some types of thyroid disease, anemia, diabetes, alopecia areata, and vitiligo.
- Injury to the skin and deeper tissues of the vulva – Previous skin damage at a particular site on your skin may increase the likelihood of lichen sclerosus at that location.
- Genetic factors — A genetic predisposition means that a person may carry a gene for a disease, but symptoms may not appear unless triggered by something in the environment such as an injury. Researchers have found that having family members who have had lichen sclerosus increases the likelihood of an individual getting the disease.
- Hormones — Hormonal imbalances, such as low estrogen levels, can trigger a wide range of conditions throughout the body. Because lichen sclerosus occurs most frequently in postmenopausal woman and girls who at the early stages of puberty, researchers are trying to determine if the hormonal flux during these life stages may contribute to its development. However, hormone therapy therapies have not proven effective in treating lichen sclerosus.
Specific other health issues are known to appear concurrently with lichen sclerosus. While they may not be related directly to lichen sclerosus, these conditions thrive under the same conditions. Women who have had any of these conditions – or more than one – may be more vulnerable to the development of lichen sclerosus. Researchers can also use what they know about these issues to help them learn more about the causes of lichen sclerosus.
- Lichen planus – Lichen Planus is a rare disorder that causes itchy, raised eruptions. The small spots may be prolific enough to merge into scaly patches. Lichen Planus can also cause lesions in the mouth.
- Vitiligo – Vitiligo causes white patches of skin similar to those associated with lichen sclerosus, and the two diseases can be co-occurring.
- Pemphigoid – This rare skin disorder causes blistering and scarring of the vulva.
- Carcinoma of the Vulva – Vulvar cancer is a malignant disease that causes cancerous changes in the vulvar skin. These changes can resemble lichen sclerosus and should be carefully monitored.
- Hyperplastic Dystrophy of Vulva – Sometimes an injury to the vulva can cause hyperplastic dystrophy of the vulva. This itchy condition may be triggered by eating acidic foods, skin allergies, chemical irritation or tight clothing that chafes the vulvar skin.
If you are experiencing itching, burning, painful intercourse or changes in your vulvar skin, it’s important to be assessed by a urogynecologist.
At Coyle Institute, we are having success treating lichen sclerosus with the new TULIP® procedure. The procedure was invented by Dr. Coyle and is a continuation of his original research on lichen sclerosus combined with the healing benefits of Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP. With just one TULIP® treatment, women can be relieved of all signs and symptoms of lichen sclerosus. Dr. Coyle has invented this single-treatment protocol to make treatment easier for every woman, but especially to make treatment more accessible to medical travel patients from around the world who can only make one trip to the U.S.
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