Understanding Lichen Sclerosus

Changes in the skin of your genital area is a cause of concern. At Bergen Aesthetics, Dr. Heripsime Ohanian offers comprehensive diagnostic services for a variety of skin diseases, including rare conditions like lichen sclerosus.Dr. Ohanian recommends scheduling an evaluation for any skin abnormalities as soon as possible to prevent them from worsening, especially if you have symptoms of lichen sclerosus.

An overview of lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that causes white patches to develop on the skin of your genitals. These patches can become itchy and painful.

While rare, the white patches can also develop on other areas of your body including your:

  • Neck
  • Back
  • Mouth
  • Thighs
  • Wrists
  • Breasts
  • Shoulders

The underlying cause of lichen sclerosus isn’t well understood, but your hormones might play a role. For this reason, many women going through menopause develop lichen sclerosus as their hormones levels begin declining.

Puberty is another time when lichen sclerosus develops due to the fluctuations of hormones in both girls and boys, although it’s more rare.

Men, women, and children are also at risk for developing lichen sclerosus if they experience open wounds in the skin or if they undergo radiation therapy to treat cancer.

Recognizing the symptoms of lichen sclerosus

In addition to white skin patches, lichen sclerosus can cause other symptoms that affect the skin of your genitals or anus.

These include:

  • Thinning skin
  • Bleeding ulcers
  • Discolored bumps
  • Lighter, scar-like patches of skin

You might also experience periods of intense itching, burning sensations, or pain in the genital area.

Men typically develop symptoms of lichen sclerosus on the tip of their penis, while women have patches that develop on the vulva. This can also lead to pain during sex, another symptom of lichen sclerosus.

Skin changes associated with lichen sclerosus can go away on their own without treatment. However, it’s important that you get any skin changes checked out, especially if the changes get worse or begin interfering with your quality of life. If not properly treated, lichen sclerosus can cause permanent scarring of your skin.

Know your treatment options for lichen sclerosus

To confirm the changes in your skin relate to lichen sclerosus, Dr. Ohanian offers in-office skin biopsies. She removes a sample of the affected skin and evaluates it under a microscope.

If you have lichen sclerosus, Dr. Ohanian customizes a treatment plan that typically involves the use of prescription corticosteroids that you apply to the area daily for several months. Steroids reduce your risks for both permanent scarring and for squamous cell skin cancer.

When this therapy isn’t enough to relieve your symptoms and heal your skin, you might need surgery to remove the affected tissue.

Because lichen sclerosus can increase your risk for skin cancer, you’ll need routine skin screenings for the rest of your life. Dr. Ohanian ensures that you’re not having recurrent lichen sclerosus flare-ups or any precancerous or cancerous changes in your skin.

To schedule an evaluation of lichen sclerosus symptoms, call Bergen Aesthetics or book an appointment online today.

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