Lichen Sclerosus. Are you familiar with this condition? It’s a skin condition which primarily affects the tissues of the genital and anal region. It is a chronic skin condition which causes progressive inflammation and sometimes thinning of external genital tissues around the vulva. It can affect other areas of the body, but the genital and anal regions are most common.
One of the common complaints of a person with lichen sclerosus is itching. It can also cause white patches on the skin in the vulvar region, scars and adhesions on the vulva, and easy tearing because tissues become fragile over time.
The cause of lichen sclerosus (LS) is still not clear but it has been linked to hormone issues, a hyperactive immune system, and skin lesions which causes scarring.
Women’s health and pelvic floor therapists see individuals with LS in the clinic for symptoms related to dyspareunia, or painful intercourse. Painful intercourse can occur because of inflammation to the vulvar region, scarring, or thinning of tissues.
In addition, scarring of the tissues of the vulva can make sex uncomfortable because of narrowing of the vaginal opening or friction around the vulva. Pelvic health physical therapists can help mobilize this tissue and teach you how to use dilators to help stretch the vaginal canal.
Relaxation training, down-training of pelvic floor muscles, and soft tissue mobilization are treatments pelvic health therapists implement to decrease the effects of LS. During the acute phase of LS, medications may be prescribed to decrease inflammation and make physical therapy more tolerable.
Although this is a progressive and chronic condition, don’t lose hope. There are things you can do to help manage this. Aside from steroid medications topically, there are medical procedures like the Mona Lisa Touch or estrogen therapy which can help restore the weakened tissues.
Vulvar hygiene is also very important in managing LS. You want to avoid products which can irritate vulvar tissue. Moisture related to leaking of urine or excess sweating can also irritate the skin and vulvar tissues.
If you have more questions regarding LS, talk to your doctor or schedule a Discovery Call with Katy to see if physical therapy is right for you.