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Quite a rarity, Lichen sclerosus is a skin disease, which is typically identified as white, patchy skin that is both sensitive and thinner than the surrounding area. Although it can appear anywhere on the body, it is found to occur predominantly in the skin regions in and around the vulva, the anus and the foreskin of the penis. It is a common occurrence in postmenopausal women.
Mild cases of lichen sclerosus are usually asymptomatic, but moderate to severe cases may have any of the following signs and symptoms:
1. Itching, which may or may not be severe
2. Smooth and sensitive white spots
3. Easy tearing or bruising
4. Pain or discomfort
5. Wrinkled or blotchy patches
6. Painful intercourse
7. Blistering, bleeding or ulcerated lesions in more severe cases
Although there are no known exact causes of lichen sclerosus, here are a few possible causes:
1. An overactive immune system
2. An imbalance of hormones
3. Previous skin damage at a particular site making it tender and sensitive
A number of problems may arise from the skin disease, if left untreated. Here are a few complications:
1. Skin cancer may develop, but then again, this is a very rare occurrence
2. Lichen sclerosus on the vulva can lead to the development of vulvar cancer.
3. Sexual intercourse can get extremely painful for women in severe cases, due to intensive scratching and scarring
4. Can cause thinning and tightening of the foreskin of uncircumcised men. This can be troublesome during erections or when urinating.
If the symptoms do not show or if your genital area is not badly affected, then you may not necessarily need treatment. However, if symptoms begin to appear, you should probably consult a doctor for treatment. Treatment can help decrease scarring and itching, as well as improve your skin's appearance.
Corticosteroid ointments and creams are the most common form of treatment. Apart from this form of treatment, you should consult your doctor may also prescribe the following:
1. Immune-modulating medications
2. Ultraviolet light treatment
3. Topical sex hormones
4. Circumcision or removal of the foreskin of the penis