Lichen sclerosus (LS)
What is lichen sclerosus (LS)?
It is a long-term skin condition. It can be on any part of the body. It is most often in the vulva and anal area.
The skin can look:
- White, shiny, and fragile
- White, thickened, and callous-like
- Irritated and red
All 3 forms can happen at the same time. It may also be found in more than 1 family member, especially mother and daughter.
You cannot get it from or give it to others.
It is not a type of cancer. It is known as being precancer. It can become cancer if not treated.
It happens most often in people who have gone through menopause. It can happen at any age though, even children.
What causes lichen sclerosus?
The cause is not known. Many studies have been done to try to find the cause. It may be caused by an autoimmune response. Antibodies are made by the body to fight infections. With lichen sclerosus, the antibodies attack your skin and tissue causing damage.
What are the signs of lichen sclerosus?
- Mild to severe itching
- Skin tears or ulcers caused by scratching
- Bruised skin with small broken blood vessels
- Flattened or absent inner lips of the vulva (labia minor)
- Narrowed opening of the vagina
- Clitoris becomes buried (covered with skin)
Signs and symptoms can be different from person to person. They may get better then worse at different times in your life. It may be worse during hot summer months when you are sweating more. More moisture can irritate skin..
How is lichen sclerosus diagnosed?
- Your provider will look for skin changes of the vulva.
- A biopsy (small piece of skin) might be needed to diagnose LS.
What is the treatment for lichen sclerosus?
It may be treated with:
- Always follow the Skin Care Guidelines you are given.
- Steroid ointments or creams.
- Use as directed.
- This will help the redness, itching, and irritation.
- Tacrolimus (Protopic) ointment 0.1% or 0.3%:
- Use as directed.
- It helps the redness, itching, and irritation by calming the immune response.
- This may cause a slight burning when applied.
Use medicines only as prescribed by your provider. This will limit unwanted side effects.
Can it be cured?
It tends to be a long-term condition. Symptoms can often be kept under control when treated.
People with LS may have a higher risk of getting vulvar skin cancer. Have regular follow up with your provider. Call your provider if you have any skin changes.
Mild scarring can happen. Severe scarring is rare. This can cause the opening of the vagina to be narrow. Protect and treat your skin to prevent this from happening.
The Obstetrics Gynecology Clinic at 319-356-2294 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
For urgent questions or concerns
Call toll-free at 800-777-8442, 24 hours a day
Ask for the gynecology resident on call.
You may be asked some questions when using the toll-free number.