Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin disorder that primarily affects the genitalia and, sometimes, the upper body; it is not related to skin cancer, but the scarred area can lead to a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Lichen sclerosus is most common in women who have gone through menopause; it is uncommon in men, and rarely affects children.
Lichen sclerosus is characterized by shiny, white spots on the vulva or head of the penis that grow bigger with time. Other symptoms include itchiness, bruising, bleeding and discomfort.
Lichen sclerosus is a non-contagious condition. Although the exact cause is unknown, a malfunctioning immune system, hormone imbalances and a significant skin injury might trigger an outbreak.
Most lichen sclerosus outbreaks disappear without treatment, but the genital kind should be treated immediately. Treatments include surgery, cortisone medication, retinoids and topical corticosteroids. Surgery doesn’t necessarily protect from future outbreaks.
Who to See
If you think you have lichen sclerosus, visit a dermatologist, gynecologist or urologist; you might need a biopsy so other conditions can be ruled out.