Lichen Simplex Chronicus
Lichen simplex chronicus is a disease characterized by scaly, dry skin and linked to pruritus (itching associated with disorders such as dry skin, skin disease, pregnancy, and cancer).
Is Pruritus a Chronic Condition?
Yes and no. Pruritus can affect you for a long time, but the effects themselves (the itching) is intermittent. The scratching that results provide you with only temporary relief.
Descriptions of pruritus note that the itching is worse when you are still or quiet, and the symptoms of pruritus can decrease and even disappear if you are more active.
Causes & Symptoms of Pruritus and Lichen Simplex Chronicus
If your medical history contains instances of acute trauma, chronic skin conditions, insect bites, and specialized diseases like atopic dermatitis, you may demonstrate pruritus and eventually lichen simplex chronicus.
First, something may rub, irritate or scratch your skin. Clothing is usually the culprit of this. You may begin to rub or scratch the itchy area. If you scratch constantly your skin will start to thicken. Your thickened skin itches further, which leads you to scratch more, causing more thickening. Your skin may eventually become leathery and brown in the areas affected by lichen simplex chronicus.
Lichen simplex chronicus leads to scratching, which then causes more itching. Symptoms of lichen simplex chronicus are:
- Itching: The itching you experience as a result of lichen simplex chronicus may be chronic (long-term), intense, and may increase in times of stress.
- Leathery Skin Texture: Your skin may harden after constant chronic itching.
- Raw Areas of Your Skin: Itching too much may rub off your skin, causing painful raw areas to form and lead to discomfort and pain.
- Scaling: Outer layers of your skin may have visible peeling or flaking.
- Skin Lesions: Patches, lesions, or plaque with sharp borders and a leathery texture may form on your skin.
Where on my body would it likely occur?
The skin thickening caused by scratching your lichen simplex chronicus can happen on any location that you can reach. These places include:
- Extensor Forearms
- Upper Medial Thighs, Lower Legs, and Ankles
Lichen simplex chronicus may happen more often in people that have one or more of the following ailments:
- Emotional Problems
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Lichen simplex chronicus is common in children if they cannot stop scratching insect bites and other itchy skin conditions, and children who have chronic repetitive movements are more likely to contract the disease.
Which group of people have the most cases of lichen simplex chronicus?
In the general population, it is estimated that 12% of aging patients with itchy (pruritic) skin had lichen simplex chronicus. Lichen simplex chronicus is observed more frequently in females than males. Lichen nuchae is a form of lichen simplex chronicus that shows up on your mid posterior neck. This version of lichen simplex chronicus is observed most frequently in women. Lichen simplex chronicus occurs mostly in mid or late adulthood. The highest prevalence of this disease occurs in people aged 30-50 years.
The interplay that occurs between your primary skin lesions, psychic factors (emotional tensions, anxiety, depression, OCD), and the intensity of your itching.
Diagnosing Lichen Simplex Chronicus
Your doctor will examine your skin and ask about any past chronic itching and scratching. Your doctor may perform what is known as a skin lesion biopsy: he or she will take a sample of your skin and analyze it under a microscope to confirm a diagnosis of lichen simplex chronicus.
The central treatment of lichen simplex chronicus hinges on stopping you from continuing to scratch your itchy skin. You may consider some or all of these options to help you with your scratching:
- Behavior Modification
- Stress Management
Topical treatments that help alleviate your symptoms of lichen simplex chronicus include:
- Coal Tar: Soaps and lotions that contain coal tar are helpful for your skin if you are suffering from lichen simplex chronicus.
- Lotions & Steroid Creams: These ointments can calm your itching and irritation
- Peeling Ointments: These ointments contain salicylic acid, and are meant to be applied to patches of thickened skin.
Oral treatments for lichen simplex chronicus include:
Bacterial skin infections, permanent changes in your skin color, and permanent scarring may be the longest lasting effects of lichen simplex chronicus.
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