Lichen Sclerosus is a “rare” incurable progressive inflammatory skin condition. Researchers believe it is an autoimmune condition with a genetic or hormonal component.
Anyone from toddlers to older people can develop LS. Although most current research identifies it as a prepubescent and postmenopausal condition.
Penis owners are at a lower risk of developing Lichen Sclerosus. One PO for every ten VO is affected. Most POs who are afflicted are uncircumcised.
Often misdiagnosed for conditions such as yeast/thrush, urinary tract infection, or herpes, many go untreated and develop worsening symptoms.
When finally properly diagnosed, many are not given proper information, causing them to treat improperly, allowing the condition to progress.
Read our Lichen Sclerosus Overview page to get in-depth treatment and care information.
Patients can be affected by one or a variety of common symptoms, for example, itching, white skin patches, or burning. Some patients are asymptomatic and don’t realize they have LS until they start experiencing painful sex or problems urinating. Others, who have often gone untreated, develop severe symptoms such as fusing/scarring or vulvar cancer.
Although listed as a “rare” condition, patients and doctors who treat it believe it is more common. According to research, “one in 70 women presenting to a general gynecology practice with practitioners experienced in diagnosing this condition” have Lichen Sclerosus. On average, it takes a vulva owner 5-15 years to get diagnosed after symptoms start.
Lack of a proper diagnosis the first time means there is a large patient population unknowingly walking around.
Organizations such as Lichen Sclerosus Support Network and other LS advocacy groups are spreading the word to minimize these numbers.
Researchers do not know what causes LS. The current leading thought is that LS is an autoimmune disease with a genetic, hormonal, or trauma-induced component.
It is not a sexually transmitted infection or contagious.
As of now, there is no cure for Lichen Sclerosus, but LS can be managed with proper treatment and stress management.
You cannot die of Lichen Sclerosus. Unfortunately, in rare cases (1-5%), LS can turn into vulvar cancer. Most of those cases are patients who have gone untreated for decades. If caught early, before it spreads, vulvar cancer is not fatal.
The short answer is yes. The long answer is you will need to manage your condition, mental health, have a qualified medical team, and a strong circle of support.
The hardest part of being newly diagnosed is the lack of information, not knowing what questions to ask, or having someone to talk to.
If you need help and can’t find what you need, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This condition affects everyone differently. What might cause flare-ups for one may not cause them for others. It’s important to pay attention to your body. Tracking your symptoms will help you learn your triggers.
That being said, the most common triggers are:
If your topical treatment stops working, notify your doctor ASAP. Do not leave your Lichen Sclerosus untreated.
Your doctor should figure out what is happening and discuss your options.
There are multiple choices and potencies of steroids. Sometimes it’s not the steroid, but the base it’s mixed in, which people are allergic to. Getting the steroid compounded often alleviates this issue.
If steroids are unusable or ineffective, topical calcineurin inhibitors are a second-line treatment. They work on reducing skin inflammation differently than steroids.
Alternative medical treatments such as laser and other experimental treatments have been scientifically proven ineffective at managing Lichen Sclerosus.
General application guidelines are
The following method has been developed by vulvar specialists over years of treating thousands of LS patients. For a deeper conversation on proper steroid therapy check this interview with Dr. Jill Krapf.
LS changes the texture of the skin. These texture changes can cause scarring/fusing at the vaginal opening. It can also make the skin of the perineum so thick that it loses elasticity and is prone to tears.
Penetration and friction from sex can damage the skin and cause pain during and after sexual activity. As the damage heals, it causes more scarring, and the cycle continues until the skin is too damaged to allow penetration or vaginismus can develop. Vaginismus is the body’s way of closing off the vaginal cavity to prevent penetration.
Avoiding penetrative sexual activity is important until your body has healed to prevent further damage. Working with a sex therapist and a pelvic health physical therapist helps deal with issues that can arise.