Lichen Planus & Lichen Sclerosis


Lichen Planus (LP) is a skin rash that is triggered by the immune system.  The condition usually clears up by itself within several weeks or months, but there are also treatments that can manage your symptoms. Lichen planus may be uncomfortable, however it isn’t usually considered dangerous. For a small number of women, LS or LP can develop into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell cancer

Lichen planus is a skin rash that is triggered by the immune system. It is not known why the immune response occurs. There may be several contributing factors, and each case is different. Potential causes include:

• viral infections
• allergens
• stress
• genetics

Sometimes lichen planus occurs along with autoimmune disorders. While it can be uncomfortable, in most cases lichen planus is not a serious condition. It is also not contagious, but some variations and spread quickly and be painful.  It can be treated by using topical and oral medications to reduce symptoms, or by using drugs that suppress the immune system. It is easily diagnosed by Dr. Julie Lowe.

lichen-sclLichen Sclerosus (LS) is a skin disorder that causes the skin to become thin, whitened, and wrinkled, and can cause itching and pain. LS usually occurs in postmenopausal women, although men, children, and premenopausal women may be affected. It can develop on any skin surface, but in women it most commonly occurs near the clitoris, on the labia (the inner and outer genital lips), and in the anal region. In 15 to 20 percent of patients, LS lesions develop on other skin surfaces, such as the thighs, breasts, wrists, shoulders, neck, and even inside the mouth. Symptoms include:

Itching – The most common symptom of LS is itching. It may be so severe that it interferes with sleep.

Anal itching, fissures, bleeding, and pain

Painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia) – This can occur as a result of repeated cracking of the skin (fissuring) or from narrowing of the vaginal opening due to scarring.

Typically, women with genital LS have thin, white, wrinkled skin on the labia, often extending down and around the anus. Purple-colored areas of bruising may be seen. Cracks (also known as fissures) may form in the skin in the area around the anus, the labia, and the clitoris. Relatively minor rubbing or sex may lead to bleeding due to the fragility of the involved skin.

If genital LS is not treated, it may progress and change the appearance of the genital area as the outer and inner lips of the vulva fuse (stick together) and cover the clitoris. The opening of the vagina can become narrowed, and cracks, fissures, and thickened, scarred skin in the genital and anal area can make sexual intercourse or genital examination painful. LS does not affect the inner reproductive organs, such as the vagina and uterus.

Features of genital Lichen Sclerosus in men — In men, LS may appear on the head of the penis. Men who develop LS are usually uncircumcised (they have not had the foreskin of the penis removed), and the foreskin can become tight, shrunken, and scarred over the head of the penis. Men with LS may also have problems pulling back the foreskin and may experience decreased sensation at the tip of the penis, painful erections, or problems with urination.

Features of LS in other areas — LS may also cause lesions to occur in areas outside the genitals, especially the upper body, breasts, and upper arms. These lesions tend to be white, flat or raised, and are not as itchy as the affected skin of the genitals and anus.