Lichen sclerosus is an inflammatory skin condition that primarily affects the vulva but can affect any areas of the skin. Many patients report an inability to have sexual intercourse due to tearing, splitting or extreme burning sensations. This is due to the skin on the vulva and around the vagina become thin and the vaginal opening shrinking is size due to atrophy and scarring. In severe cases the labia minora is lost due to fusion or reabsorption and the clitoris is buried under the skin resulting in further damage during intercourse. Lichen sclerosus can lead to a development of vulval cancers and this risk is estimated in 5% of cases, but could be higher as lichen sclerosus is often misdiagnosed and treated as recurrent thrush. If a patient is left untreated the risk of developing vulval skin cancers increase. Steroid treatment has been proven successful in preventing the occurrence of vulval cancers as well as six-monthly skin checks by your gynaecologist.
Signs of lichen sclerosus can include:
- White patches
- Cuts on the vulva
- Itchy anus
- Clitoris buried under the skin
- Labia minora fusing or reabsorption
- Painful intercourse
- Vaginal opening shrinking
- Purple/red bruising on the vulva
- Repeated treatments for thrush
It is important to seek medical advice if you develop any vulval skin conditions that do not clear up after being treated and then recur.
Dr Len Kliman has a special interest in vulval skin conditions and is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Vulval Vaginal Society (ANZVS) and the International Society for the Study of Vulval Vaginal Diseases (ISSVD).
Dr Len Kliman is one of Melbourne’s most experienced and respected obstetricians and gynaecologists.
With over three decades of experience, Dr Kliman has delivered over 20,000 babies and still counting!
In 2017, Dr Kliman was awarded an Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to obstetrics and gynaecology.