Lichen sclerosus (LS) is an inflammatory condition that mostly affects the skin surrounding the genitals. About 200,000 Americans have been diagnosed with the disorder. And while both men and women can develop LS, it mostly affects women and girls.
At Progressive Women’s Health in Friendswood, Texas, board-certified OB/GYN and women’s health specialist, Asia Mohsin, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating many women’s health concerns, including LS.
Currently, no cure for LS exists, and researchers are still working to understand what causes the disorder to develop. The condition isn’t contagious, and scientists believe genetics plays a role along with other factors, including:
- Issues with the immune system/history of autoimmune diseases
- Hormonal imbalances (notably, estrogen imbalances)
- History of damaged genital skin or sexual abuse
Treatments can help ease your symptoms and prevent your LS from worsening. In the past, medications, topical ointments, and steroid injections offered some relief. But these drug therapies can have serious side effects, including birth defects. And injections can be painful.
Fortunately, recent research has found alternative methods for managing LS, including a regenerative treatment called platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy. Take a moment to learn what you need to know.
How can I tell if I have lichen sclerosus?
Some people with lichen sclerosus don’t have symptoms. However, most people develop symptoms on their genitals and anal area that range from mild to severe, including:
- Itchy skin, which can be severe
- Smooth, white patches of skin
- Redness and discomfort or pain
- Blotchy, wrinkled patches of skin
- Skin that tears or bleeds easily
- Blistering, ulcerated skin sores
- Painful intercourse
- Painful urination or trouble urinating
- Bleeding or pain during bowel movements
You can also experience symptoms on your upper body, including your arms and breasts. The good news is that LS doesn’t affect how your reproductive organs work, so your vagina, cervix, and uterus aren’t affected.
If you’re experiencing itching, irritation, or general discomfort in your genitals or anal area, it’s important to schedule an appointment with Dr. Mohsin. Lichen sclerosus shares symptoms with other conditions, so it’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis.
To diagnose LS, Dr. Mohsin performs a physical exam to look at the appearance of your skin. Dr. Mohsin may also order blood work to check your estrogen levels. She may order a biopsy and other tests to confirm or rule out LS as the cause of your symptoms.
Is lichen sclerosus dangerous?
While lichen sclerosus isn’t contagious, and it’s not cancerous, that doesn’t mean the disorder is harmless. Lichen sclerosus is a chronic, lifelong health condition that currently doesn’t have a cure.
While patches of LS on skin outside the genitals and anal area may resolve on their own, genital LS rarely improves without medical intervention. And without treatment to help manage your symptoms, it’s possible to develop complications, including:
- Genital scarring that interferes with sexual intercourse or urination
- Extreme discomfort and pain
- Elevated risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma (a type of skin cancer)
- Slightly elevated risk of developing vulvar cancer
Again, if you have or suspect you have LS, don’t wait to seek medical help. This progressive condition usually gets worse over time, but treatments can slow or stop its progress.
How can PRP therapy treat LS?
Here’s a look at PRP therapy and how it can boost healing and revitalization in the treated areas:
A background on PRP therapy
Your blood comprises many particles, including powerful platelets. Platelets develop in your bone marrow and have several jobs, including helping your blood clot when you get injured. They also contain special growth factors, called polypeptides.
These amazing factors stimulate cell turnover and new growth. This helps your body repair damaged or injured tissues and create new tissues when needed.
Doctors in many fields use FDA-approved platelet-rich plasma therapy to treat and manage many conditions. It gained popularity in treating sports injuries due its regenerative nature, speeding the healing process and promoting new cell growth.
In recent years, PRP therapy has become a popular aesthetic treatment, helping rejuvenate skin, minimize scarring, and even regrow hair. Research now suggests PRP therapy is also an effective treatment for managing the debilitating symptoms of LS.
How PRP therapy is performed
First, your provider draws a small amount of your blood. Then your provider places it in a special machine, called a centrifuge, which spins it to separate your platelets from the other elements of your blood.
The result is a super-concentrated solution of platelets with 5-10 times more platelets than is normally found in blood. Then your provider injects this platelet serum into your LS lesions. The platelets then get to work promoting cell turnover and helping your body grow new, LS-free skin cells.
Research has found that treating LS with PRP therapy has resulted in an improved quality of life. While research on this breakthrough treatment is ongoing, results have been promising.
To learn more about lichen sclerosus and PRP therapy, call 281-626-7694 or book an appointment online with Progressive Women’s Health today.