Lichen sclerosus is an inflammation of the skin of unknown cause which produces a change in the texture of affected areas.
It can occur anywhere on the body, but most commonly affects the skin of the genitalia. It is not infectious. It may appear at any age, but is commoner before puberty or in elderly men. The main symptom is itch. It is most often seen in older women, but girls, boys and older men can also be affected. In men the foreskin may become tight.
Sometimes there is a family history of this disease and there may also be a family history of auto-immune disease, such as thyroid gland problems.
A biopsy may be taken when a very small piece of skin will be cut out for examination under the microscope. This will be done under local anaesthetic, so it will be relatively painless.
It is helpful to stop using all soaps and bubble baths and to use a soap substitute. The most successful treatment is a strong steroid ointment e.g. Dermovate (clobetasol propionate 0.05%) which is used once or twice a day initially. A 30g tube will last two to three months and is quite safe.
Once your condition is controlled an annual check up is recommended, because very rarely a skin cancer can develop on long-standing chronic inflammation.
If you do develop an ulcer or small growth that does not respond to treatment after a month, you should consult your doctor without further delay.
The National Lichen Sclerosus Support Group (NLSSG),
PO Box 5830, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3ZU.
Visit the lichen sclerosus website
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