In this section
Lichen sclerosus is an uncommon skin condition that causes a
distinctive rash and usually affects the genital skin around the vulva
and anus. It most often looks like white patches on the skin. It
can last for years and can cause permanent scarring.
The cause is unknown. Lichen sclerosus is not an infection and it is not contagious. It usually affects females but can also
affect men and boys. In boys, the foreskin can become tight and
difficult to draw back. It can happen at any age but is most common before puberty or around menopause. Overall, it is much more
common in adults than in children.
Soap, talcum powder, antiseptics or non-prescription creams
should be avoided. The most successful treatment is steroid
ointment. Current research also suggests it usually gets better
There may be a family history of lichen sclerosus or other types
of autoimmune disease such as vitiligo (loss of skin pigment),
alopecia (loss of scalp or body hair), diabetes or pernicious
anaemia. In adult women, lichen sclerosus may be associated
with thyroid gland problems.
Lichen sclerosus can be anywhere on the body but usually affects
genital skin around the vulva and anus. It does not affect the
insides of the vagina. The general health of a person with lichen sclerosus remains
normal, and sometimes there may be no symptoms at all.
The most common symptoms include:
The genital skin is very delicate. It is important to stop
using or doing all the following:
Try instead:Alternatives for washing include:
The most successful treatment is steroid ointment, used
once a day initially and usually at night. A thirty gram (30gm) tube
should last at least three months and is quite
safe to use. Over time it may be used less often, depending on
symptoms. Continued use once or twice per week may be needed for some time.
Current research suggests that anogenital lichen sclerosus
will get better naturally in two out of every three girls before or
around the time they start having periods. However, for some girls the condition can continue on past this time.
Once the condition is controlled, either by the use of steroid ointment or naturally,
it is important to have an annual check up with your family
doctor. Very rarely, a skin cancer can develop when there has
been long-standing chronic inflammation of the skin.
Developed by the RCH Department of
Dermatology. Updated November 2010.
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