What is lichen sclerosis and what does it look like?
Lichen sclerosis (LS) is a skin condition that makes the vulva look
white, slightly shiny, and smooth. The skin’s surface becomes thin
and delicate so that it tears easily. This can cause bleeding under
the skin. In severe cases of lichen sclerosis of the genital area,
scarring can occur. This causes the inner lips of the vulva to get
smaller. The clitoris can become covered in scar tissue.
What causes lichen sclerosis?
We do not know the exact cause of lichen sclerosis. Scientists
have different theories to try to explain the cause. Some scientists
think that an overactive immune system may play a role in causing
the disease. Some people may also develop lichen sclerosis due to
their genes or to changes in hormones. Since lichen sclerosis is
not caused by an infection, it cannot be spread and is not
What are the symptoms of lichen sclerosis?
Symptoms of lichen sclerosis may be different from one person to
another and can be mild to severe. Girls and young women who
have this disease may experience some or all of the following
symptoms in the vulva area:
Mild to severe itching in the vulva area
Skin that appears fragile, pale, and/or white
Bruised skin with broken blood vessels or “blood blisters”
Small tears or fissures in the skin
Scar tissue covering the labia or clitoris
Bleeding or tearing of skin when having bowel movements
How is lichen sclerosis diagnosed?
Lichen sclerosis can be a difficult diagnosis to make. It is not
unusual for someone to see more than one doctor before the
disease is finally diagnosed. Most of the time, doctors who see
many patients with lichen sclerosis can often make the diagnosis
just by looking at the skin. However in most cases if you are in the
early stages of lichen sclerosis, the doctor may have to do a biopsy
(removal and examination of a small sample of affected skin) to
identify the cause of your symptoms.