Lichen Sclerosus: Symptoms, Treatment, Self Help
What is Lichen Schlerosus?
I'm going to talk about a disorder that's not well-known or discussed much. I'm using plain English without relying on a difficult manual to describe the symptoms to make it more easily understood.
Lichen Schlerosus is a skin disorder/problem that mainly affects the genital and anal areas of women. It's more common in women who are post-menopausal, but it also affects young girls and teens (rarely), and women who are hormonal or pre-menopausal. Nobody is immune to it. Men can have the disorder, too. It can affect any part of the body, but it's mainly centered on the genitals and anal area.
Lichen Schlerosus is not an STD! Nor is it contagious. Nobody knows the actual cause of the disorder, though there is some suspicion it's connected to the body's immune system, hormones, and thyroid function. I read one theory that suggested a vitamin D deficiency could be connected. Age is also a factor in the ailment, as mentioned above. Whatever the cause, it's a miserable affliction that's not fully understood. In additon, not all doctors are knowledgeable of the disorder.
The first and most common symptom in sexually active women is painful intercourse. It may feel like the skin around the vaginal opening is 'thinned out', sensitive, and may burn upon penetration and friction. One woman described it as "...like fire between my legs..!" For women who suffer from it, this makes the sex act nearly impossible to enjoy. One may experience itching in the vulvar area that can be mild or intense. There may also be tears in the skin around the vaginal or anal area, as well as the inner and outer labia. The skin around the affected area may appear whitish and pale or it may look like white blisters. There can even be bleeding ! The most damaging symptom is the scar tissue that can develop which covers the labia or clitoris, thus interrupting, or even ceasing altogether, any pleasurable sensations associated with lovemaking.
A young girl displays examples of LS on other parts of the body.
How do you know if you have Lichen Schlerosus? The only sure way to verify if you have the ailment is for your gynecologist to perform a biopsy on the affected area. Once test results are complete, a firm diagnosis can be determined.
OB doctors and dermatologists usually treat the disorder with a steroidal cream or ointment called Clobetasol. Sometimes, if your breakout symptoms are too bad, the cream form of the steroid can cause some irritaion. When this occurs, the ointment version of the medicince may be used.
Another treatment your doctor may prescribe is the hormonal cream Estrace. It's used to aid the skin and tissue surrounding the affected area. It may help with dryness and elasticity. It also aids to renew and replenish the area that may be damaged from excessive scar tissue, helping to restore the area to it's natural state.
Depending on the doctor, they may also prescribe Testosterone Cream. Not only does it increase libido, it has many other benefits and acts as hormone replacement thereapy, much like it's counterpart, Estrace Cream. It's especially effective after your symptoms disappear because it increases your sex drive, therefore helping to establish a normal sex life again.
Your doctor may also recommend an over the counter ointment called Replens. This is a long-lasting vaginal moisturizer that may increase overall vaginal healthiness.
Essential Oils and Natural Remedies
There are many things one can do to self-treat the disorder, however, always follow the advice of your doctor. If your symptoms persist or get worse, contacting you healthcare provider is recommended. The self help treatments I'm discussing were discovered through various web-based support groups. I'll provide a link to these groups at the end of my article.
To assist with vaginal dryness, one may use Emu Oil. Others may use Tea Tree Oil. I've heard of some women using Virgin Olive Oil! The idea is that if it can be consumed into the body, you can use it.
Other self-help treatments include increasing your intake of Vitamin D3. This is correlated to the theory that Lichen Schlerosus may be connected to a deficiency in vitamin D. Another suggestion is Turmeric Extract. It has many health benefits and is linked to the healing of skin disorders. In addition, it can help with boosting the immune system.
These are just a few examples of self-help remedies for Lichen Schlerosus. I'll be providing links to more information and where to order the products.
If you're suffering from any of these symptoms, please contact your OB doctor or Dermatologist and schedule an appointmet to diagnose the afflicion. Though there's no known cure for the disorder, the symptoms can be controlled, maintained, and in some instances, obliterated by following the advice of your doctor and using self help remedies. If you've already been diagnosed with the ailment, I hope that the information and links can help you cope with Lichen Schlerosus. You're not alone.
A Personal Note: I was diagnosed with LS in July, 2009. After the biopsy, my OB doctor gave me Clobetasol Cream. Alone, it didn't work. I ASKED for the Estrace cream and got it, but still was not better and had a really bad flare-up that actually burned so bad I could hardly function. He referred me to a dermatologistwho changed the steroid cream to an ointment. This gave me some relief, but it wasn't until I started doing my own research that I found the remedies I needed to regain a normal life. I got an appointment with the Vulvar Clinic in Little Rock, UAMS. I was already symptom free by the time I saw the specialist there. He told me, "Whatever you've been doing, keep doing it because your tissue and skin is completely healthy." This is what I'm doing for maintenance:
Clobetasol Ointment: use once a week.
Estrace Cream: use 3 times per week.
Testosterone Cream: use twice week.
Daily: Vitamin D-3 4000 IU, Omega-3 Fish Oil 1,000 mg, Turmeric Extract C3 Complex 1,160mg
I'm adding the links below. Good luck!
Support Group for Lichen Schlerosus
- Best Support Group for LS!
.This group is for anyone who is dealing personally with the disorder called 'Lichen Sclerosis'(LS) as well as 'Lichen Planus'(LP) (very similar) and BXO (a male version) or has a partner, friend, or child dealing with this painful genital condition