Lichen sclerosus (LS) is a condition that is not always very easy to spot, as the symptoms are sometimes dormant, and it can therefore go undiagnosed for a long time. However, lichen sclerosus can be distressing for those who have it, particularly when it is accompanied by itching, skin cracking and/or irritation. While there is no cure for the condition it can be managed effectively. But what exactly is lichen sclerosus, and how is it diagnosed.
What is lichen sclerosus?
Lichen sclerosus is a skin dermatoses that affects the vulva tissue in women. Other more common conditions in the skin dermatosis group are Ezcema, Psoraisis, and Dandruff. Symptoms of LS include itchiness, dryness, cracks in the skin, and in some cases there may also be hypopigmentation, which is usually marked by white spots/splotches or homogenous hypopigmentation on various parts of the vulva.
Left untreated, lichen sclerosus can result in changes in the tissues of the vulva. It can cause the tissues to stick together with untimate loss of the labia miora or small lips, shrink to tissues leading to tightness over the clitorus and narrowing of the vaginal opening. The cause of lichen sclerosus is not known, but some medical researchers believe that it is related to an autoimmune process.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosing lichen sclerosus is done on the basis of a visual examination, but it often takes a trained and experienced vulvovaginal specialist to identify the clinical signs of the disease. A biopsy is only necessary if the skin has become thickened, a late sign known as leukoplakia. Biopsy is necessary in that case to exclude the possibility of precancerous/cancer transformation.
Lichen sclerosus is best treated with the use of topical corticosteroids. Steroid treatment is an effective way to control the symptoms, and can also improve the appearance of the skin. Most gynecologists use only episodic high potency corticosteriods which is very effective in the short term but then the condition relapses and the treatment cycle sterts over. This is not the ideal approcah.
At Fowler GYN International (FGI), Paradise Valley, AZ, they adhere to a maintenance therapy protocol involving the use of low potency corticosteroids after the condition is adequately suppressed to maintain a disease free state.
If you believe that the symptoms you have may be related to lichen sclerosus, call FGI today at (480) 420-4001, to schedule a consultation with board certified gynecologist, Dr. R. Stuart Fowler who specializes in vulvovaginal health. You can also contact them online at www.fowlergyninternational.com/contact-us, to request a free pre-registration call.