Lichen sclerosus (also called LS or white spot disease), is a long-term skin condition that mostly affects your genital and anal areas. Sometimes lichen sclerosus will appear on your upper body, breasts, and arms.
Early on in the development, small white spots will appear on your skin. These spots are shiny and smooth. Later they will grow into bigger patches, and the skin on these patches will become thin and crinkled. You will find that this skin tears easily, causing bright red and purple bruises. Scarring can also occur because your skin is under so much stress from the disease. If you have a mild case of lichen sclerosus, you may not experience any symptoms at all.
Here are some other symptoms you may experience if you have Lichen Sclerosus:
Is Lichen Sclerosus Contagious?
No. Lichen sclerosus is not contagious. You can’t catch lichen sclerosus from another person.
There is no medical consensus on what causes lichen sclerosus. Some doctors and medical professionals think that a hormone problem and an overactive immune system play a role. It is also thought that it is inherited; your ability to develop lichen sclerosus is passed down to you through your genetic history. Sometimes, it can appear on areas of your skin that have already been damaged or scarred by a previous injury.
Lichen sclerosus usually appears in women who have already gone through menopause. Men get it sometimes though it is not common for men to be affected by lichen sclerosus. Children rarely are afflicted with lichen sclerosis, although it is not unheard of.
Diagnosing Lichen Sclerosus
A doctor can look at a case of severe lichen sclerosus and know exactly what it is. But usually, a doctor takes a small piece of one of your skin patches affected by the disease and looks at it under a microscope; this is done to ensure that there is not other disease-causing lichen sclerosus-like symptoms.
If you are a woman, and you have severe lichen sclerosus in your genital area, it is probably not a good idea for you to engage in sexual activity with your partner. Because it can cause scars that narrow your vagina, sex can hurt and cause the patches to bleed.
Because lichen sclerosus is a skin disease that most commonly occurs near your genitals, but also could affect your urinary and urogenital tracts, there are multiple types of doctors you can go to for treatment. In addition to your primary health care provider, you may go to the following specialists for diagnosis and treatment:
Patches of lichen sclerosus that occur on your arms or upper body go away over time and don’t require any treatment. Lichen sclerosus on your genital skin should be treated, even if it doesn’t feel painful or itchy. The scarring that results from these untreated patches can cause problems with urination and sex. Treatment with creams and ointments can help. If you have severe scarring in your vagina, or if you have the presence of cancer or possible presence of cancer, you may need surgery. However, you will only qualify for surgery after your lichen sclerosus is controlled with medication.
The Surgical Process
Surgical therapy of the vulva consists of three primary procedures:
- Cryosurgery: Surgery in which your doctor will use extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue. The term cryosurgery comes from two Greek words that translate to “icy cold handiwork.” Cryosurgery has been used for a while to treat some ailments, especially certain benign or malignant skin conditions.
- Laser Ablation: A continuous laser is used by a surgeon to destroy the abnormal tissues or built up scars caused by lichen sclerosus.
- Vulvectomy: This is a gynecological procedure where your vulva is partly or completely removed.
Although lichen sclerosus doesn’t cause skin cancer directly, your skin that has been scarred because of lichen sclerosus is more likely to develop skin cancer. If you have lichen sclerosus, you need to see your doctor at least every 6 to 12 months. Your doctor can look at and treat any changes in your skin if he or she can track the progress of the changes in your skin due to lichen sclerosus.
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