Lichen sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the skin. In women, the skin around the vulva and the anus is most commonly affected, and the condition causes irritation and itching. These symptoms may come and go over weeks or months.
The cause of lichen sclerosis is unknown. It is thought to be due to an immune reaction against the skin, and is not due to any infection. It is not contagious, and cannot be passed on to partners.
Signs and symptoms of lichen sclerosis include itching, pain, soreness, changes in the colour and texture of the skin affected, narrowing of the vaginal opening making sex painful or difficult.
A small biopsy from the affected skin may be required to make a diagnosis. This can be done under local anaesthetic with minimum discomfort for you.
Treatment involves avoiding skin irritants like soaps, scented products in baths/showers and tight underwear. Steroid cream is the definitive treatment for lichen sclerosis. It does not cure the condition and symptoms can relapse over time.
There is a small risk of developing skin cancer if you have had lichen sclerosis for a long time. It is recommended that you self-examine or visit a doctor for regular check-ups for this reason.