What is Lichen Sclerosus?
Lichen sclerosus is a fairly rare condition characterized by white, patchy skin which is thinner than usual.
While it is possible for the condition to affect the skin on any part of the body, it most often affects a woman’s vulva, a man’s foreskin or the skin surrounding the anus.
It is also sometimes called LS or White Spot Disease.
Both genders can be affected by lichen sclerosus and it can occur to people at any age.
However, postmenopausal women are at a higher risk.
Facts About Lichen Sclerosus
- Lichen sclerosus is a fairly rare conditions which mainly affects the genitals and perianal areas of both sexes.
- The condition is most common in older women especially those who have gone through menopause.
- Although it can affect men and children, it is very uncommon.
- The condition is not contagious.
- There are various symptoms of lichen sclerosus including small white or shiny spots appearing on your skin. These small spots develop into larger plaques which become thinner and crinkled. Skin can tear more easily and there may be bleeding, blisters and itching.
- The exact causes of the condition are unknown but it may be caused by hormone problems and overactive immune systems
- Lesions appearing on the upper body and arms typically go away without the need for treatment. Lesions on the genitals usual;ly require treatment such as topical steroid creams and ointments.
- Skin which has been scarred because of lichen sclerosus is more prone to skin cancer in the future.
Symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus
In cases of very mild lichen sclerosus, there may be no evident symptoms or signs that anything is wrong.
However, more severe cases present a variety of symptoms including the following.
- Itching which can range from moderate to severe.
- Pain and discomfort.
- Smooth white blotches on the skin.
- Wrinkled patches on the skin.
- Bleeding, blisters and ulcerated lesions in very severe cases.
- Skin more prone to tearing and bruising.
- Painful sexual intercourse.
What are the Causes?
The precise causes of the condition are not fully known. We know that it is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another even via sexual intercourse.
It might be caused by a hormone imbalance and an overactive immune response. Previous damage to the skin might also increase your chances of developing lichen sclerosus in that particular area.
While lichen sclerosus most often affects women post-menopause, it can also affect men and young children. In men and boys, the condition most often affects their foreskin meaning that those who have not been circumcised are at far greater risk.
Treatment for Lichen Sclerosus
In cases of mild lichen sclerosus especially when the genital regions are not affected, you may not actually require treatment. It can and often does clear up on its own.
However, if you are experiencing symptoms and the lichen sclerosus presents on the vulva or the penis, your doctor is likely to recommend treatment.
The treatment is aimed at reducing the itching and discomfort, reducing the risk of scarring and improving the skin’s appearance.
The most commonly prescribed medication for lichen sclerosus are corticosteroid creams and ointments. They are typically applied to the affected area every day to start off with the treatments being reduced to a few times a week after a couple of weeks.
Prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause more damage to the skin and can actually cause it to thin even further.
Home Remedies for Lichen Sclerosus
Because many people do not respond well to corticosteroid treatment and the risk of adverse side effects, many people choose to use an alternative, natural home remedy.
Natural home treatments are focused on dietary changes and other home treatments to help ease the itching and soothe any discomfort. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that the following remedies can work specifically for lichen sclerosus and we are largely reliant on anecdotal evidence.
Nevertheless, many of these remedies are tried and tested and effective for many of the symptoms of the condition including itching and irritation. They can also help keep the skin clean and reduce the risk of infection.
Essential oils, apple cider vinegar, and Castor oil are all popular options that a number of people have found highly effective. The following are some of the best and most popular remedies that you can try at home.
If you are going to try a home remedy, try to be patient as it may take some trial and error before you find the best remedy for your own skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Many people suffering from lichen sclerosus have experienced a great deal of success with apple cider vinegar. Do not confuse this vinegar with your ordinary table vinegar.
Good quality apple cider vinegar contains a rich array of nutrition as well as antibacterial properties making it ideal to deal with a variety of skin conditions.
You can drink a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar each day for general health purposes. To treat your lichen sclerosus, simply wet a cotton ball in the vinegar and gently apply it to the affected area of your body a few times a day. Be careful try a very small amount at first to ensure it does not burn.
Castor oil is full of goodness that can have a very beneficial effect on your symptoms. Many sufferers find it to be an excellent and soothing remedy. It is also cheap and readily available making it an attractive option.
To get the best benefits from your Castor oil, follow these simple instructions.
Combine 3 or 4 tablespoons of Castor oil with a few drops of lavender essential oil and store it away in a jar. When the mixture has taken on a paste-like consistency, it is ready to use.
Apply it to the affected areas daily and you should start feeling relief from itching and it should also help to heal your lesions.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is probably the most popular essential oil. It has a vast array of medicinal uses and is known to be one of the most gentle oils for your sensitive skin.
You can apply lavender oil undiluted but it is probably better to dilute it with a carrier oil like virgin coconut oil before you apply it.
According to people who have used the remedy, it can have a very dramatic effect in a very short space of time.
Applying lavender essential oil should help stop any burning and itching that you may be suffering from..
Aloe vera is well known for its many benefits on the skin and lichen sclerosus is no exception. Make sure that you have pure Aloe vera gel of at least 99% and it can be applied to your genitals to ease your symptoms.
Simply apply around a 1/8th of a teaspoon of gel to the affected area of your skin several times a day to experience welcome relief and keep your itch at bay.
Borax powder is among the most talked about and popular remedies for sufferers of lichen sclerosus. It is also a potentially effective remedy for oral lichen planus.
You can simply put a tablespoon or so of borax powder and an equal amount of baking soda in your tub and soak in it for 20 minutes or so.
Alternatively, you can take it internally. Add a 1/8th teaspoon of borax and an equal amount of pink Himalayan salt to a liter or so of filtered water.
Drink the solution throughout the day in very small amounts of around 50 mils a time. Try getting through the drink before bedtime each day for 2 weeks and see if it has had a positive effect.
Baking soda may also help relieve the soreness and itching associated with the condition. You could simply try adding a tablespoon or so to your bath and just soaking in it.
Alternatively, put a tablespoon in a glass with around a third cup of clean water. Sit down on the toilet and then pour the solution directly on the genital area.
Emu oil is has been gaining in popularity of late owing to its excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This oil which is sourced from the the Australian emu bird may well help treat the symptoms of lichen sclerosus and soothe any irritation and swelling.
You can apply this healing oil directly to the affected areas of your skin and massage it in several times daily. According to research, it is well-absorbed and you only need apply a small amount to deal with a range of inflammatory skin conditions. While there are no studies into the effects of emu oil on lichen sclerosus, there have been studies demonstrating its efficacy regarding other skin complaints.
One study conducted by the University of Saskatchewan found that when the oil was combined with vitamin E, it could speed up the healing process when applied to skin wounds. (1)
Another study published in 2013 was done to examine the effects of emu oil on patients with seborrheic dermatitis – a common inflammatory skin condition. The researchers found that applying emu oil to the skin could soothe irritation and itching which are very common symptoms felt by people with lichen sclerosus. (2)
Good quality extra virgin coconut oil has been a source of comfort to many sufferers of lichen sclerosus. It can provide soothing relief from the itching and burning you experience.
It can also be used in conjunction with corticosteroid treatment by acting as a barrier and allowing you to spread your steroid cream on thinner.
Studies including this one published in 2010 have revealed that a magnesium deficiency could be linked chronic inflammatory stress. (3) According to recent estimates, some 60% of the adults in the US do not consume sufficient magnesium which can lead to a number of health problems. One of the benefits of magnesium is its anti-inflammatory ability which make it a potential remedy for people suffering with lichen sclerosus.
If you are not getting enough magnesium from your diet, it is readily available in supplementary form. make sure that you read the labels carefully to ensure that you take the most suitable dose.
Lichen sclerosus may be linked to the things that you eat so carefully monitoring your diet may be crucial. One of the best diets that you can follow to keep your symptoms in check is the Candida diet, probiotics are also helpful.
Many of those who suffer from the condition also suffer from yeast infections and thrush so the Candida diet makes a lot of sense.
You will need to cut refined sugars, processed dairy products and possibly even gluten and wheat from your diet. Try eating healthy, natural products and add plenty of fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut, and yogurt. Regular probiotic supplements can also play a positive role in eliminating yeast infections.
You can easily find information on the Candida diet by checking online.
Lichen sclerosus and diet
Not much research has been conducted into the specific link between diet and lichen sclerosus. There is, however some evidence to indicate a low-oxalate diet can relieve symptoms in women. A urine test can determine if it is high in oxalate and may help you to plan your diet accordingly.
Other dietary tips include staying well-hydrated and drinking sufficient water that you produce a pale colored urine. You should also decrease your intake of refined carbs and eat more anti-inflammatory foods and plant fats. Your doctor can give you information about a low oxalate plan.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Lichen Sclerosus Caused By?
Doctors are not certain exactly what causes lichen sclerosus but we know it cannot be passed from one person to another. Some of the possible causes of the condition include:
- Hormonal problems.
- Having an overactive immune system.
- Injuries which have damaged the skin.
Is Lichen Sclerosus a Fungal Infection?
No. Lichen sclerosus is not a fungal infection nor is it any other type of infection.
Is Lichen sclerosus curable?
Unfortunately, there is no complete cure for the condition. However, there are certain treatments like corticosteroids that will help as well as a number of potential home remedies.
Is Lichen Sclerosus a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
No it is not. Although the condition typically affects the genitalia, lichen planus cannot be sexually transmitted from one person to another.
Is Lichen Sclerosus Contagious?
Although we do not know exactly what causes lichen planus, we do know that it is not contagious in any way.
Can stress cause lichen sclerosus?
The precise causes of lichen sclerosus remain unknown but stress has not been linked. Most experts believe it is caused by an overactive immune system. It is also possible that hormones are involved.
Can lichen sclerosus cause other complications?
Lichen sclerosus may cause further complications if it is left untreated. It can lead to blisters, bruises and open wounds or ulcerated lesions. When these wounds are not cleaned properly, they are at risk of infection.
Lichen sclerosus and cancer
There is a small chance that lichen sclerosus can lead to squamous cell carcinoma. However, only around 4% of women with lichen sclerosus are believed to have developed cancer as a result. It can also take many years for the condition to develop into a cancer and careful monitoring and regular checks can help prevent cancer from developing.
Tips For Managing Lichen Sclerosus
As well as medical creams, ointments and the home remedies listed, there are a number of other measures you can take to make the condition easier to deal with. They include the following :
- Avoid using scented detergents or bathing products that may irritate your skin.
- Keep the affected area or areas well-moisturized with a suitable product.
- Make sure that you use lubricants during sexual intercourse.
- Clean and dry your genital area thoroughly after urinating.
- Do not rub or scratch the affected area.
- Wear loose-fitting underwear made from natural fibers.
Lichen sclerosus is a rare condition that can cause pain and irritation. While there are plenty of effective medical treatments, you may be able to treat and manage the condition equally as well with a variety of natural remedies.
The condition is not curable but can be managed with steroid creams and other topical treatments that your doctor may prescribe.
Lichen sclerosus typically affects the genital region but can show up on other parts of the body. the condition is more likely to clear up of its own accord when it affects areas other than the genitals.
Potential remedies include borax, aloe vera gel, certain essential oils and dietary changes but there is no hard evidence that these home remedies will work for you. Nevertheless, these remedies can help soothe itching and irritation and help keep any wounds caused by the condition clean.
We hope that one of these natural remedies can help you overcome your symptoms or at least make them a little more bearable. If you have had success with these or any other natural remedy, then please let us know and we can add it to our list.