Lichen Sclerosus: A Long Term Skin Problem

Lichen sclerosus is one of the long term skin problems that generally affects the genital and anal regions and sometimes can appear in the upper body particularly around the breasts and upper arm.

Often this particular skin ailment is seen in post-menopausal women. The occurrence in men is not very common and extremely rare in children.

At the onset of the disease, small, white, shiny and smooth spots appear on the skin. These gradually turn bigger and the affected area gets thin and crinkled. When the skin tears the patches show red and purple bruises, and often results in scars. Often the patient’s affected areas, of the skin, get itchy resulting in discomfort and pain. Sometimes blisters appear and sometimes the skin breaks thereby causing bleeding.

Doctors and researchers are yet to ascertain the exact cause of lichen sclerosus. However the cause is often attributed to overactive immune system or hormonal malfunction. Sometimes this ailment is found in areas of the body where the skin had been damaged previously. Some doctors even link it to heredity. But it has been found that this condition is not contagious.

The doctors generally can identify lichen sclerosus but to make sure that the condition is not some other disease they may conduct a biopsy of the affected skin. Once the condition has been identified as a case of lichen sclerosus, the treatment follows. If the affected areas are the arms and upper body then no medication is given as these go away on their own with time. However, if genital areas are affected, then it needs treatment as scars form and cause problem in urination and having sex.

Treatment is done with strong cortisone cream and ointment.These creams need to be applied on the affected areas daily in the initial stages and then the application is generally tapered off to prevent the disease from recurring. However, any scar formation doesn’t go off easily.

But remember not to use the creams for a long time as they can cause thinning of the skin, stretch marks and genital yeast infection. Also these creams may not cure fast enough if the patient has low estrogen levels, is allergic to the medication, or is suffering from other infections. In such cases the doctor has to use retinoids, tacrolimus ointments and UV light treatments.