Skin Home > Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a recurring skin disorder that can affect anyone, but is most common in women. Symptoms vary, but often include itching and small white spots. Doctors can diagnose an advanced case by looking at the skin. However, early or mild cases often require a biopsy. Treatment options will depend on how severe the condition is and what areas are affected; when medication is used, the most commonly prescribed treatment is a very strong cortisone cream or ointment.

What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic inflammatory skin disorder that can affect men, women, or children, but is most common in women. It usually affects the vulva (the outer genitals) and the anal area. While lichen sclerosus appears predominantly in women who have gone through menopause, this skin condition is also known to develop on the head of the penis in men. Occasionally, it is seen on other parts of the body, especially the upper body, breasts, and upper arms.
Lichen sclerosus is also known as lichen sclerosus et atrophicus.

Who Does It Affect?

Although definitive data is not available, lichen sclerosus is considered a rare disorder that can develop in people of all ages. It is uncommon for women who have vulvar lichen sclerosus to have the disease on other skin surfaces. The disease is much less common in childhood. In boys, it is a major cause of tightening of the foreskin, which requires circumcision. Otherwise, it is quite uncommon in men.

What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?

Researchers are not sure what causes lichen sclerosus. At this point, they think that an overactive immune system may play a role. Some people may have a genetic tendency toward the disease, and studies suggest that abnormal hormone levels may also be a factor. Lichen sclerosus has also been shown to appear at sites of previous injury or trauma where the skin has already experienced scarring or damage.
The condition is not contagious -- you cannot "catch" it from anyone.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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