Medically described as an inflammatory disorder, Lichen Sclerosus (LS) can cause itchy, irritated, patchy, thinning & thickening skin anywhere on the body, but most commonly around the female genitals.
Considered most prevalent in women of menopausal age and pre-pubescent girls, it can also result in skin infections. While there is no cure for LS, steroid ointments are often prescribed to treat symptoms, despite the side effects and lack of efficacy for many.
In this article, we’ll discuss the three most recommended and effective natural treatments for lichen sclerosus.
Symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus
Although it can affect the neck, torso, mouth, upper back, and wrists, lichen sclerosus symptoms typically manifest most around the vulva, perineum, and anus.
Some women may suffer LS mildly, with symptoms coming and going over time, while others experience symptoms more severe and require lifelong precautionary treatments.
The most common symptoms include the following
- Itchy & irritated skin – especially around the vulva & anus
- Burning sensation in the vagina
- White or wrinkled patches of skin
- Skin sores, ulcers & blisters
- Scarring & fusion of the vulvar skin
- Pain while peeing or pooing
- Dyspareunia (pain during sex)
What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?
Although medical researchers remain unsure as to what causes LS, it is believed to be an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells. Possibly caused by hormonal changes or genetically passed on from generation to generation, LS is also believed to be the result of stress, trauma, physical injury, or a low immune system.
Is Lichen Sclerosus Contagious?
No. Although it is most commonly found around the genitals, LS is not a sexually transmitted disease and is not contagious.
Are Steroid Creams Effective for Treating Lichen Sclerosus?
Although steroid ointments are the first-line treatment for lichen sclerosus, studies have shown that they are not the most effective LS treatment for everyone, especially for those who require lifelong precautionary treatment.
Firstly, when used for an extended time, steroid creams are known to cause side effects like a gradual thinning of the vulvar skin. Research also shows that steroid creams & ointments do not work for women over 70 years of age, and 72% of younger women (aged below 70) experienced only temporary remission and a relapse of symptoms within three years.
Natural Treatments for Lichen Sclerosus
The following are known to alleviate lichen sclerosus symptoms naturally without the use of steroid creams, however, they are also considered safe when used in conjunction with steroid creams, or once you have ceased using the cream.
Natural Oils for Lichen Sclerosus
When it comes to treating the tight, itchy, and sometimes burning skin that is largely associated with LS, coconut oil and olive oil are recommended for their moisturizing and anti-inflammatory abilities. Although coconut oil has the added benefit of antibacterial properties, many women find just as much soothing relief from olive oil.
After each trip to the bathroom, natural health experts advise applying a little oil to the skin around the genitals once the area has been cleaned and gently patted dry.
Best Herbs for Lichen Sclerosus
When added to a soothing vitamin E cream, olive oil, or coconut oil; herbs like Chickweed, Calendula, and Gotu Kola have proven effective for treating lichen sclerosus.
Chickweed and calendula are suggested to manage the itching & reduce inflammation, and the antibacterial, antiseptic, & antifungal properties of calendula mean it also helps prevent infections from open sores or lesions. Gota Kola is used to promote the healing of sores and reduce scarring.
Probiotics For Lichen Sclerosus
In addition to improving gut health, probiotics help to balance the vaginal microbiome too and can help to reduce the risk of infections associated with the open sores and lesions developed by LS.
Treating Lichen Sclerosus with Vaginal Dilators
In addition to itchy, patchy, and inflamed skin, women with lichen sclerosus often notice a change in the appearance of their vulva as the labia minora begin to thin & flatten and the clitoris becomes covered.
Scarring and inflammation can also cause the skin around the opening of the vagina to thicken and fuse together with the surrounding skin. This can result in pain during urination, when inserting a tampon, or while having sex.
To prevent the vaginal opening from shrinking with LS, relieve tightness, and reduce pain & anxiety surrounding vaginal penetration, female health experts recommend using vaginal dilators.
What Is a Vaginal Dilator?
Commonly used in conjunction with pelvic floor physiotherapy, vaginal dilators are recommended for use in the privacy of your own home to relax and stretch tight vaginal tissues.
Dilators are typically diagnosed to help women recovering from pelvic trauma, surgery, and childbirth, to reduce vaginal dryness during menopause, as well as treat vaginismus, imperforate hymens, and vaginal septums.
If you can relate to the symptoms of lichen sclerosus, the first step is to confirm the diagnosis with your doctor and consider the treatment options. Although steroid creams are usually the first medical recommendation for treating LS, several natural treatments often provide better and more long-lasting relief from symptoms without any side effects.
While all of the above-mentioned natural treatments are considered safe, before beginning, it’s always a good idea to discuss any new treatments with your healthcare provider.
Cleveland Clinic – Lichen Sclerosus - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16564-lichen-sclerosus
Mayo Clinic – Dysapeurnia - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967
Jama Dermatology - Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus & The Effect of Long-term Topical Application of a Potent Steroid on the Course of the Disease - https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/fullarticle/480623
Herb Federation of New Zealand – Chickweed - https://herbs.org.nz/herbs/chickweed/
Herb Federation of New Zealand – Calendula - https://herbs.org.nz/herbs/calendula/
Intimate Rose – What Is Lichen Sclerosus and How Is It Treated - https://www.intimaterose.com/blogs/kegel-exercise/what-is-lichen-sclerosus-and-how-is-it-treated
University of Iowa Healthcare – Vaginal Dilators - https://uihc.org/educational-resources/vaginal-dilator