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Health Information

Lichen sclerosis

 

What is it?

  • A skin condition that can affect the labia, clitoris and vulval region.
  • It may be asymptomatic or cause itching, irritation and pain.
  • It looks like white plaques or patches.
  • We do not know what causes it.
  • It is diagnosed by taking a biopsy of the affected skin.
  • It can cause scarring and narrowing of the vagina so it can even cause pain with intercourse or pain and difficulty passing urine.
  • It should be followed up long term as there is a <5% risk it could become cancerous.

How is it treated?

  • There is no cure but there is treatment available to relieve symptoms.
  • Usually you start with a high dose steroid cream for 4 weeks such as Advanta Fatty Ointment. This can be used for up to 3 months in some cases.
  • Then you taper to a lower dose steroid cream such as Betnovate.
  • Long term use of steroid creams can cause side effects.
  • If there are no symptoms then you should discuss whether treatment is required. Treatment may prevent scarring or worsening of the condition.
  • Often symptoms can eventually recur requiring repeat treatment.
  • Patients should avoid using irritant soaps and clothes.
  • Amitriptyline can also be used if there is a lot of pain.
  • Vaginal dilators can be used to prevent further narrowing of the vagina.
  • Sometimes surgery is required to open up a narrowed vagina or to remove areas if cancer is suspected or diagnosed.

Version: V2, July 2013

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