This is an itchy skin rash which develops around the genital area, mainly in women, and causes a great deal of distress for the sufferer. There is no cure but the symptoms can be managed with topical steroids. This is a chronic condition although there are some cases which clear up by themselves and never return.
Men can get lichen sclerosus but it tends to affect women over 50.
Male lichen sclerosus
However, men are not immune to this and require treatment to prevent long term complications. The male version of this condition is characterised by white spots on the foreskin and tip of the penis which are itchy and painful. Severe cases can affect the foreskin to the extent that it becomes too tight or damaged which requires circumcision to remove it.
Men with lichen sclerosus are prescribed a topical steroid, e.g. cream which is applied to the affected areas of the penis.
Causes of lichen sclerosus
This is as yet unknown.
Symptoms of lichen sclerosus
This is a series of small white spots which are often itchy and sore. These spots appear around the anus or genitals, e.g. vulva but may also develop on other parts of the body such as the back.
The itchiness is worse in the evenings and can disrupt sleep patterns.
In some cases, the spots group together to form large white patches.
The affected skin becomes thin and delicate over time or conversely, thicker and wrinkled. It may develop a red raw appearance which eventually splits, causing an increased risk of an infection. The skin around the vulva may shrink which reduces the opening to the vagina, making sex more painful.
Diagnosing lichen sclerosus
You may be embarrassed to seek medical advice but don’t be. Your GP has experience in dealing with these cases and will treat you in a sympathetic manner. He or she will examine you before prescribing a course of treatment. He/she will also suggest a few lifestyle changes as well.
Treatment options are topical steroids in the form of a cream which is applied to the affected areas. Ensure that you follow the instructions carefully and see the treatment through to the end as it takes 2 to 3 months for the rash to ease and the symptoms under your control.
What changes do you need to make to your lifestyle? These are designed to be helpful and include:
- Applying petroleum jelly to the affected area before and after urination.
- Wear stockings or socks instead of tights
- Wash the affected areas with warm water and avoid using bubble bath, creams or shower gel.
- Use a lubricant if sex is painful
And, don’t scratch the affected areas as this will only worsen the symptoms.