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All About Lichen Sclerosus: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

All About Lichen Sclerosus: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Lichen sclerosus may not be common, but that doesn’t make it less painful or concerning. Fortunately, Dr. Rachel Spieldoch and her team at McDowell Mountain Gynecology in Scottsdale, Arizona, can help.

Dr. Spieldoch offers comprehensive diagnostic services and an up-to-date surgical suite so she can treat numerous conditions in a private and comfortable setting. Whether you need general gynecological care or treatment for a rare skin condition, like lichen sclerosus, Dr. Spieldoch has solutions.

Recognizing lichen sclerosus

You should never ignore any changes in the skin anywhere on your body, especially your genitals. When you have lichen sclerosus, you often develop white patches on the skin of your genitals. Over time, these patches can become painful and itchy.

While rare, this skin condition can manifest as white patches on other areas of your body, including your:

The underlying cause of this chronic, inflammatory skin condition isn’t well understood. However, lichen sclerosus could involve your hormones. Many women develop lichen sclerosus in menopause as their hormone levels start declining. Similarly, girls can develop lichen sclerosus during puberty from their fluctuating hormones.

While it’s seen more often in women and girls, men and boys can also have lichen sclerosus. Men, women, and children also have an increased risk of developing lichen sclerosus if they undergo radiation therapy to treat cancer or have open wounds in the skin.

Other signs of lichen sclerosus

In addition to white patches and itching and periods of intense itching, burning sensations or pain in the genital area, lichen sclerosus also has other symptoms that can affect the skin of your genitals or anus. These include:

In most cases, women develop symptoms of lichen sclerosus on the vulva. Because of these affected areas, another common symptom of the condition involves pain during sex.

You may notice lichen sclerosus skin changes go away on their own without treatment. However, it’s essential to get any skin changes checked out, especially if your symptoms worsen or start interfering with your quality of life. 

If ignored, lichen sclerosus can cause permanent scarring of your skin and increase your chances of squamous cell carcinoma — the second most common form of skin cancer.

How to find relief for lichen sclerosus

To diagnose lichen sclerosus, Dr. Spieldoch often performs a physical examination and in-office skin biopsy. During this test, she removes a small piece of the affected skin for evaluation under a microscope.

After confirming that you have lichen sclerosus, Dr. Spieldoch creates a customized treatment plan. This often involves applying prescription corticosteroids to the area every day for several months. Using steroid medications can reduce your risks of permanent scarring and skin cancer.

If corticosteroid therapy isn’t enough to relieve your symptoms and heal your skin, Dr. Spieldoch could recommend surgery to remove the affected tissue.

Because lichen sclerosus increases your risk of skin cancer, you need routine skin screenings for the rest of your life. Dr. Spieldoch can ensure that you’re not having flare-ups and can watch for any precancerous or cancerous changes in your skin.

Do you have symptoms that have you concerned about lichen sclerosus? Call McDowell Mountain Gynecology at 480-483-9011 or book an appointment online today.

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