International Adhesions Society





Related Conditions:
Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen Sclerosus

What is LS?

Lichen sclerosus (aka lichen sclerosis or lichen sclerosis et atrophicus) is a painful skin condition that typically affects the vulva (or penis) and anus.

In women, LS falls under the general category of vulvodynia (chronic vulvar pain).  It is not a contagious condition.

Lichen sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that causes substantial discomfort and morbidity, most commonly in adult women, but also in men and children.

 Any skin site may be affected (and, rarely, the oral mucosa) but lichen sclerosus is most common in the anogenital area, where it causes intractable itching and soreness.

In children, the disorder may be confused with changes seen in sexual abuse. Progression to destructive scarring is common. There is increased risk of developing vulval cancer, and there are links with penile cancer. Patients should be kept under long-term review. Lichen sclerosus can occur without symptoms, and the exact prevalence is uncertain. It occurs most commonly in women at times of low sex hormone output. The underlying cause is unknown, but there seems to be a genetic susceptibility and a link with autoimmune mechanisms.

The wart virus and the spirochaete borrelia have been suggested but not substantiated as infective triggers. The Koebner phenomenon is known to occur (lichen sclerosus occurs in skin already scarred or damaged), so trauma, injury, and sexual abuse have been suggested as possible triggers of symptoms in genetically predisposed people. The treatment of choice for anogenital lichen sclerosus is potent topical corticosteroid ointment for a limited time.

Circumcision may be indicated in men, and surgery may be considered in women, to relieve effects of scarring or to treat coexisting carcinoma. Current research aims to identify a treatable cause of lichen sclerosus, to identify patients at risk of scarring and of malignant disorders, and to find target pathways for therapeutic intervention.

What are the symptoms of LS?

The symptoms of LS are thinning skin, white patches of skin, itching and/or burning, painful sexual intercourse, and sores or lesions resulting from scratching.  If left untreated, LS can result in fusing of the skin, atrophy, and narrowing of the vagina.  A more detailed description is provided here.

Please note that all of these symptoms may not be present.  Some women do not experience itching, for example -- only pain.

Who can get LS?

The most common sufferers of LS are post-menopausal women, although the disease can strike women of any age -- including young girls.  In addition, there are many known cases of men and boys diagnosed with LS.  

Common Misdiagnoses

The most common misdiagnosis for lichen sclerosus is a yeast infection.  Other misdiagnoses include herpes or a bacteria infection.  In children, the symptoms of LS are sometimes mistakenly identified as signs of sexual abuse.

Generally, a biopsy from the affected area can help determine whether your condition is indeed LS.  Unfortunately, some sufferers have gone as long as twenty years without proper diagnosis.


- What Is Lichen Sclerosus? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Lichen Sclerosus
- Lichen sclerosus 1989 Review.
- Non-neoplastic epithelial disorders of the vulva


Worldwide Lichen Sclerosus Support
Living with LS – Online Community

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