Lichen Sclerosus Et Atrophicus: Symptoms and Treatment
Lichen sclerosus et atrophicus (LS) is a skin disorder that affects the skin around the outer genitals.
Also spelled sclerosis, it is most common in women but can also affect men and children.
It causes skin around the vulva to become white and crinkled, with tearing and scarring in severe cases.
LS is a debilitatingly painful condition that greatly affects the lives of those who suffer from it. The repeated inflammation in the affected area results in symptoms like itching, irritation, and pain during sex—not to mention the stigma and anguish that comes with the disease.
Though it is not so rare, many doctors are not familiar enough with the disease to be able to readily recognize and diagnose it. As such, thousands of LS sufferers go years without receiving a proper diagnosis, and even longer before they find ways to manage it.
Most people with LS need long-term treatment to manage their symptoms. But with the right regimen and medicine, it is possible to live a normal pain-free life.
They can also do so with effective natural treatments like emu oil.
Let’s take a look at dealing with this long-term skin disease and how natural treatments like emu oil can offer much-needed relief.
Is Lichen Sclerosus (LS) an Autoimmune Disease or a Skin Disorder?
Pronounced “LIKE-in skler-O-sus”, LS is a chronic inflammatory condition that is specifically categorised as a skin disorder.
However, you’re more likely to develop it if you have a pre-existing autoimmune disease like:
- Autoimmune-related thyroid disease
- Autoimmune-related anemia
- Type I diabetes
- Alopecia areata
Vulval lichen sclerosus is the common form of the condition that affects a woman’s external genital areas, hence also referred to as genital lichen sclerosus.
There’s no exact known cause of lichen sclerosus but since it runs in families, experts think that certain genes may play a role.
Other factors that may lead to the condition include problems with the immune system, hormonal imbalances (especially with estrogen), and past skin damage.
How Does Lichen Sclerosus Affect the Skin Layers?
With LS, your skin surface (epidermis) may become thin, allowing inflammatory cells to invade the dermis — resulting in swelling and broken blood vessels.
Stretchy fibers in the skin like collagen may break, ultimately causing symptoms like itching, pain, and skin lesions. Once the skin becomes inflamed, passing urine and having sex may be difficult.
In more severe cases, lichen sclerosus produces scarring that may cause the inner lips of the vulva to shrink and disappear, the clitoris to become covered with scar tissue, and the opening of the vagina to narrow.
It’s important to schedule regular exams with your doctor to monitor your lichen sclerosus as it could increase your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus
Common symptoms of lichen sclerosus et atrophicus are skin changes like:
- White spots
- Textural changes
- Crinkled skin
- Skin tears easily
- Scar tissue
- Clitoris scarring
- Vaginal bruising
How Is Lichen Sclerosus Diagnosed?
A lichen sclerosus diagnosis involves examining the skin in the affected area during a thorough clinical evaluation.
The evaluation should also include identifying the patient’s characteristic physical features for LS, detailed patient history, and all treatment to date (including all over-the-counter medications).
This is usually enough for a diagnosis but you may require a skin biopsy whereby the doctor removes small pieces of skin and analyzes them in a lab.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Does Lichen Sclerosus Flare-Up?
Some of the activities that may cause lichen sclerosus to flare up are:
- Irritants such as soap, detergents, shower gels, and bubble baths
- Friction or damage to the skin through overzealous washing and drying of the vaginal or anal area
- Irritation from urine leakage
Inflamed areas naturally flare up from time to time and often settle down on their own but the severity and duration of flare-ups vary from person to person.
However, if you follow a strict hygiene regime and use the right moisturizer you can greatly reduce the occurrence and severity of a flare-up.
`’I love emu oil I’m seeing a difference in my symptoms the white patches are definitely disappearing.”
What Happens if Lichen Sclerosus Is Left Untreated?
The truth is lichen sclerosus has no cure although symptoms sometimes naturally disappear (especially on the arms and upper body).
However, if left untreated, vulvar lichen sclerosus may permanently change the look of the genitals and one may require surgery to fix this.
In men, the foreskin may scar and shrink resulting in trouble pulling back the foreskin and pain during sex.
If you have lichen sclerosus et atrophicus, it's important to seek help from a medical professional. Aside from prescribing steroid ointment treatments, your healthcare provider may advise you to:
- Avoid scratching the area
- Avoid wearing pantyhose (wear thigh-high stockings instead)
- Wear cotton underwear instead of synthetic underwear
- Wear loose-fitting pants or skirts instead of tight-fitting pants
- Avoid using scented soaps, detergents, or bubble baths
- Avoid applying soap directly to your genitals
- Use your fingertips to wash the vulva (not a washcloth)
- Not rub but pat the vulva dry after washing
- Avoid using feminine sprays or douches
On the other hand, there are natural, healthier, and less expensive options like pure emu oil and emu oil-based creams and salves.
After a really bad flare-up this week, I was desperate for relief, and a more natural approach for treating my symptoms (there is no cure). I started reading on line forums about Lichen Sclerosis. Some of the ingredients in your On the Go Skin Soother Stick were recommended as being effective.
I have been using the stick for a few days now and have already noticed a difference. It is wonderful! Thanks for helping me to feel relief and sleep through the night!"
What Is the Best Treatment for Lichen Sclerosus?
Treatment of lichen sclerosus often involves frequent use of an "ultra-potent" topical steroid ointment like clobetasol, available only by prescription.
However, many people opt for more natural options as long-term steroid use could result in topical steroid withdrawal syndrome.
This is why Emu Joy has created a kit just for LS sufferers that provides emu oil-based relief for many of the typical symptoms.
The Soothe My LS Kit contains:
Pure Refined Emu Oil
Pure refined emu oil is a tried and tested emollient used for centuries to treat many skin conditions like eczema, arthritis, and lichen sclerosus.
Made up of essential fatty acids like oleic acid, linolenic acid, palmitoleic acid, emu oil has a powerful yet gentle anti-inflammatory effect.
Emu oil works down to the deepest layers of the skin to improve skin health and texture.
In case you’re wondering, yes, emu oil can be safely used as a vaginal lubricant.
Soothe My Skin
This product provides relief for itch and irritation with a combination of aloe, calendula, chamomile, emu oil, and other soothing botanicals.
Aloe vera produces a gel rich in vitamins A, C, E, and B12 which has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce pain and swelling as well as limit scarring.
"I really like this product. It works very nicely both as a moisturizer and for my pain needs with my LS. I rub a small amount on the area where I'm having pain and dryness and in a short time I feel relief. Anyone who has LS will understand when I say that this is a blessing. I also like that this is a natural product."
Banish My Pain
With pain-relieving properties from camphor, arnica, cajeput, emu oil, and other plant oils we chose “Banish My Pain” for its anti-inflammatory and skin regenerating abilities.
Because it is recommended to avoid using products with arnica on broken skin, use this product after all the splits have healed.
On the Go Skin Soother Stick
This is a handy stick that easily fits in your purse or pocket for when pain, itch, or irritation crop up when you’re on the go.
The twist-up stick is also easy to apply and non-messy so you can discreetly find relief no matter where you are.
Emu Oil Soap
A gentle all-natural soap enhanced with calendula that will cleanse, soothe and hydrate delicate skin.
The active ingredients in calendula improve collagen synthesis in the sub-epidermal connective tissue thus enhancing new tissue growth which decreases inflammation.
Relief is Not a Myth
Struggling with LS? Talk to your doctor and relieve your symptoms with Emu Joy.
"I was admittedly skeptical when I purchased this for relief of my LS symptoms, but I have to say I got instant relief upon application which lasted all day. Worked as well as the steroid my doctor prescribed. Ordered a second jar to keep with me on the go for long days away from home."
Order your “Smooth My LS Kit” through the link below to begin experiencing relief from your Lichen Sclerosis symptoms.
Featured Image from:commons.wikimedia.org