What is vulvar lichen planus (LP)? What are its cause and symptoms? Who is at high risk of suffering it? How do we go about with treatments and remedies? For more about vulvar lichen planus, you need to go through this exhaustive article.
Facts and vulvar lichen planus vs sclerosis
Here are the meaningful facts about lichen planus:
- The clear cause of lichen planus is not yet discovered
- It is non-infectious, non-cancerous and non-hereditary inflammatory skin disorder
- This condition is also not associated with nutrition though certain foods may aggravate the symptoms
- This skin condition is approximated to affect 1% of the population and therefore it is a rare disease
- It can occur in any part of the skin
- People with certain medical conditions such as hepatitis are vulnerable to lichen planus
- Some of the treatments for this condition may involve steroid creams or lotions, antihistamines or phototherapy.
- Lichen planus may have similar symptoms as lichen sclerosis though, sclerosis does not affect the female genitalia or the perianal skin
- It is not definitely caused by infection, diet, aging, menopause, hygiene practices or sexual activities
- It usually attacks adults, it is uncommon among children and adolescents. You`ll always find that quite a good number of women with vulvar LP are middle-aged and beyond
About vulvar lichen planus
Many medical experts join hands and define lichen planus to be an uncommon inflammatory skin condition that results in itchy or burning rash, painful purple or red lesions. This usually occurs on arms, legs or in the mouth but can also occur on the vulvar. This condition usually presents in different forms, I mean it has varying symptoms.
According to thewomens.org.au, “If it is not treated, lichen planus can cause permanent scarring and possibly cancer….For most women, it is a lifelong condition.”
As we had highlighted before, experts aren`t sure about the clear cause of lichen planus. This is very unfortunate. In many cases, this condition is associated with an autoimmune disorder or Hepatitis B and C. Below are the deemed causes of vulvar LP:
In this case, some conditions may trigger the immune system to become overactive and thus the immune will fallaciously attack healthy tissue leading to inflammation and formation. “Antibodies are normally made by the body to fight infections. With lichen planus, the antibodies attack normal skin and tissue causing damage.” [uihc.org]
Reaction to certain medications
Lichen planus on vulvar can also occur due to reaction towards certain medications. Medications that can contribute to its formation include the following:
- Common drugs used to treat cardiovascular problems. They are called beta-blockers
- Anti-inflammatory treatments
- Thiazide diuretics
- These are a group of tranquilizing drugs with antipsychotic
- Gold injections used to treat arthritis
More conditions that can be associated with lichen planus include diabetes, hypertension or allergic reaction to certain chemicals.
Symptoms to expect
Usually, when lichen planus occur on woman`s vulvar, it can come and go but in many cases, they stay quite long. The symptom of LP can be mild or severe and will vary from one woman to the other. This usually depends on how fast you initiate the treatment for LP symptoms. The symptoms can be mild in the beginning but can aggravate if no proper treatment is administered. See the common symptoms that can occur alongside Lichen planus on vulvar.
- Red painful areas on vulvar, these are usually referred to as erosions
- Pain, burning, soreness, and itching in the genital area
- There may be vaginal discharge if the symptoms spread to the vagina
- Chronic inflammation may lead to scarring in the genital area. This usually results to changes in the appearance of the vulvar and more specifically loss of labia minora, tightening, and constriction of the vaginal opening.
- Presence of irritating discharge
- You may also develop sticky yellow discharge that can be bloodstained
- Painful sexual intercourse may result due to the erosions on the vaginal walls. Painful sexual intercourse can also be experienced when the vaginal canal shortens and narrows. This makes the penetration to be difficult or almost impossible.
Usually diagnosing lichen planus is a challenge. This is usually done by evaluating the genital area including the vagina and examining the signs and symptoms of this condition. A vulvar biopsy may do to differentiate lichen planus from other causes of inflammation. Conditions such as lichen sclerosis may have similar characteristics as LP and so proper diagnosis is crucial in this case.
The expert carrying out the diagnosis may also like to ask you some few questions about the period of the symptoms, your medical history etc.
Remember, a proper diagnosis that will differentiate vulvar LP from other conditions will help define proper treatment.
Vulvar lichen planus and vulvar cancer
Is vulvar lichen planus connected to vulvar cancer? Well, LP may be linked to vulvar cancer but the susceptibility is very low. So, a woman with vulvar lichen planus should be properly examined persistently to be sure that there is no sign or evidence of vulvar cancer. Cancer of vulvar is usually a serious condition that everyone would be troubled if they get it.
Treatment and home remedies
There are many treatment available over the counter that can be used to treat LP. They will depend on the severity of the underlying symptoms and causes. They are aimed at relieving inflammation, itching and pain. Treatments are also targeted to heal the lesions or rashes.
Over the counter medications
Common treatment includes steroids creams and ointments, antihistamines or phototherapy. In severe cases, surgery may also be applied. Antibiotics may also be applied to prevent the resultant sores from being infected. Painkillers can also be administered to relieve pain.
There are also natural ingredients that can relieve pain, itching or inflammations. They are also capable of getting rid of many infections. This can be easily available at our homes but remember, they should not be used as final treatment. They are only effective for mild to moderate symptoms. Here are the common home products that can manage lichen planus:
- Aloe vera
- Essential Oils
- Baking Soda
- Lemon juice
- Egg mask etc.
When the above over-the-counter treatments do not bear any fruit then, this indicates that you lichen planus is severe. You should then move with speed to consult your doctor, the more you keep applying OTC or home remedies and the condition doesn’t heal, the more you are risking your life.