If you’re reading this then you probably suspect or have been diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis.
If you suspect you have Lichen Sclerosis you may have small pearly white spots on the your vulva. The spots are usually itchy. However, there might not be an itch or any other discomfort. In about 3 in 10 cases, the skin around your anus can also be affected. Sometimes only the skin around the anus is affected.
You will also know that the itch and irritation is persistent and distressing, worse at night and can disturb your sleep. Or perhaps its soreness rather than the itch which is bothering you most. Good news is its a skin condition so its not going to extend into your vagina or anus.
Perhaps the white spots may have become larger and joined together. The whole vulva and/or anal skin may then become white and is more fragile than normal. The fragile skin may become damaged, inflamed, raw, and prone to painful splitting and cracking. It may become painful to have sex. If the anal skin is affected, passing feaces (stools) can also be painful.
If left untreated, over months or years the vulva may atrophy (shrink). In some cases the changes of the vulval skin may make the entrance to the vagina (the labia) narrower. This can make it difficult or painful to have sex. Also, thrush and other infections tend to be more common if the vulva is sore or cracked.
It can take months or years from the first small spots to progress to more severe symptoms. At first the symptoms may be mistaken for thrush or other problems if the vulva is not examined.
What causes lichen sclerosis?
The cause is not known. There is a type of inflammation within affected skin which causes changes to the structure of the affected skin. It is not clear why this happens.
The cause is possibly an autoimmune disease (though no link has been proven). This is when the body’s immune system attacks a part of the body. This causes inflammation and damage to the affected part of the body. In people with lichen sclerosus the genital area of skin may be attacked by some parts of the immune system, which then causes inflammation. However, it is not known what triggers lichen sclerosus to develop.
About 1 in 4 people with lichen sclerosis has another autoimmune disease such as thyroid disease, vitiligo, or pernicious anaemia. This is why it is thought that lichen sclerosis is also an autoimmune disease.
Are there any complications from lichen sclerosis?
The itch and discomfort may cause much distress. The changes to the genital skin may cause sexual difficulties or problems in passing urine. There is also a small increased risk of developing cancer of the vulva. The exact risk is not known but it is thought that about 4 in 100 women with lichen sclerosis develop this cancer.
How is lichen sclerosis diagnosed?
The appearance is often fairly typical in which case no further tests are needed. If the diagnosis is in doubt, a small sample (biopsy) of affected skin may be taken under local anaesthetic. The sample of skin is put under the microscope to look at the structure of the skin cells and tissues. This can confirm the diagnosis and rule out other disorders which can sometimes mimic this condition.
If lichen sclerosis is diagnosed it is usual also to do a routine blood test to check for an underactive thyroid gland. This is because of the association between lichen sclerosis and autoimmune diseases and, in particular, autoimmune thyroid disease. Up to 3 in 10 people with lichen sclerosis also have an underactive thyroid gland.
What is the treatment for lichen sclerosis?
A strong steroid ointment or cream (topical steroid) is the main treatment. Steroids reduce inflammation. It is usual to use the ointment or cream regularly for three months. A common plan is to use a single application at night for four weeks followed by alternate nights for four weeks and then twice a week for four weeks. But, use the steroid as directed by your doctor. Keep on with treatment for as long as advised. Irritation tends to ease after two weeks or so, but the skin may take about three months of treatment to look and feel better.
The skin may return to normal if lichen sclerosis is diagnosed and treated with a topical steroid at an early stage. However, if the appearance of the skin has already changed a lot, the changes may not reverse much with topical steroid treatment, even though symptoms of itch and soreness are often relieved.
After the initial regular treatment for about three months, you may then only need to use the ointment or cream once or twice every 1-2 weeks to keep symptoms away.
An Oestrogen cream may also be diagnosed
Treating Lichen Sclerosus naturally:
We are going to focus on Homeopathy but there are a few tips that might help.
Going Gluten free has helped some people with their problems, it seems to be a good idea to experiment with cutting Gluten out of your diet for any auto immune disorder.
Giving up Sugar has also proved helpful for some people
Topical use of Coconut oil or Calendula oil can be very soothing
Probiotics can be helpful as can Fatty acids and supplemental vitamin D
Many Women find EMUAID helpful: https://www.emuaid.com/
Here are some links to organisations and forums that might be helpful to gather more information and find fellowship:
There are a variety of remedies that might be appropriate for you. In Homeopathy we say that we treat the individual and not the disease which might sound glib but the thing is Homeopathy is an individualised treatment and one thing will work wonders for one person and not for another.
We will look at many factors, physical, emotional and mental as well as spiritual. I will make a detailed time line with you of events and illnesses during your life. One of the common threads of people with Lichen Sclerosus is that their discomfort seems to have been ignored by themselves and often dismissed by the medical profession as ‘just’ thrush or ‘just’ this or that.
My job is to listen to you.
For further information or to see if we could work together, please do get in touch.