Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen Sclerosus is a painful condition affecting the skin around the vulva and anus. It’s symptoms include whitening of the vulva, thinning of the skin, white skin patches, itching, burning, bleeding, and pain during sexual intercourse.

What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

This condition affects skin in the genital areas of males and females of all ages. It’s most prevalent women aged over 50. There is no cure for the condition, but there are a number of treatments which can alleviate symptoms.

What Are The Symptoms Of Lichen Sclerosus?

In women, these symptoms include itchy white patches around the vaginal opening and anus which appear thinner than usual, and can be easily damaged leading to bleeding and discomfort.

In severe cases, bleeding and blistered sores can form. This can lead to outbreaks of ulceration in affected areas.

Can Sexual Function Be Affected?

Skin can become damaged over time, with scar-like tissue forming. Around the vaginal opening this can cause tightening or narrowing which can lead to discomfort during sex, or mean that sexual intercourse is no longer possible.

What Does Lichen Sclerosus Look Like?

Skin in affected areas can take on a white and shiny appearance, and appear thinner than skin in surrounding areas. Occasionally the skin is raised and thickened through irritation and damage. Skin thinning can also result in small blood blisters being visible, as tiny blood vessels in the skin can break.

The appearance of the vulva can also be affected in circumstances where blisters and fissures have formed and not had appropriate treatment in time. Lichen Sclerosus can also appear in areas away from the genitals. This can include around the neck, armpits, breasts, wrists, and upper trunk. These spots can initially look like pale, slightly raised areas which can subsequently form white patches which later take on the appearance of wrinkled white tissue paper.

If you think you may be suffering from this condition, it is very important to see a doctor. Whilst visiting a health practitioner to discuss issues with your genital area is embarrassing, this LS can worsen considerably if left untreated, or if you try to self treat.

What Treatments Are Available?

The application of topical steroids is the main treatment that your doctor will offer you. For many people, use of these creams can keep the condition and it’s adverse effects under control.

There are also a number of ways in which healthcare professionals will advise someone with this condition to practise good self care in order to minimise damage and discomfort caused by the affected skin becoming irritated. These include:-

  • Avoiding the use of soap-based products for washing in the intimate area.
  • Maintaining careful habits after urinating, by ensuring that the genital area is completely dried. A gentle, thorough dabbing action with toilet paper will achieve this.
  • Using a barrier cream such as Vaseline can help protect your intimate area from exposure to urine.
  • Using lubricant during sex. Also, in some cases the use of vaginal dilators can be helpful.

Surgical intervention is sometimes required to treat Lichen Sclerosus in severe cases.

What Effect Can Lichen Sclerosus Have On Ability To Have Sexual Intercourse?

Lichen Sclerosus can make sufferers particularly vulnerable to suffering skin damage during intercourse. This means that intimacy needs to be approached carefully, or tears and fissures can develop around the vulva, as well as inside the vagina.

Women can also suffer from narrowing of the vagina, which means penetration can be very painful. Some women find that their vagina is not able to accept a penis, and that friction from intercourse exacerbates existing fissures causing bleeding. Many women stop having intercourse as a result, finding it too painful.

Some women report that the stress they suffered due to pain during or after intercourse resulted in them developing Vaginismus – a condition where the vaginal muscles contract, making penetration difficult or impossible.

How Can Vaginal Dilators Help In The Treatment Of Lichen Sclerosus?

For women experiencing painful sex, or inability to have intercourse, vaginal dilators may be of help. Using them can restore vaginal width, depth, and elasticity.

You should consult with your healthcare provider to determine if using a vaginal dilator to improve symptoms is right for you. However, those women who have had a treatment plan including the use of vaginal dilation can benefit from decreased pain during penetrative sex, or a newfound ability to enjoy intimacy with their partner.

The most important aspect of a successful vaginal dilation regime is regular and consistent use. You can see our guide on how to use vaginal dilators for further information on techniques. Some women have reported that the use of dilators a short time before intercourse helped with successful intimacy and pain reduction.

Using a dilator before sex can help with creating natural lubrication in the vaginal area. Magnetic dilators can be particularly beneficial in this endeavour.

Further Reading

http://www.mintgreenliving.com/category/health/chronic-illness/lichen-sclerosus/  If your sex life has been adversely affected by LS, this blog by Erika has some excellent, clearly written, candid content about living and dealing with the condition. A useful read if you are also suffering from Vaginismus, as she discusses in a lot of detail how she deals with these two conditions, and still enjoys intimacy with her partner, and minimises the chances of damage and pain.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lichen-sclerosus/ – A useful overview in easy to read format, with important self care Do’s and Don’ts outlined.

https://patient.info/forums/discuss/browse/lichen-sclerosus-1341 – connect with other people experiencing Lichen Sclerosus on these medical patient forums.

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