Although the exact cause of Lichen Sclerosus is unknown, it is believed to have an autoimmune aspect, as around 20-30% of those with lichen sclerosus are often at higher risk of other autoimmune disorders¹. Inflamed areas of skin have a tendency to flare up from time to time and often settle down by themselves. There are several things that may trigger your lichen sclerosus symptoms, the severity and duration of flare-ups varies from person to person and from time to time in the same person.
Common triggers include:
- Friction or damage to the skin. This reaction is called a ‘Koebner response’
- Irritation from urine leakage or wearing incontinence pads or panty liners
- Irritants such as soap, detergents, shower gels and bubble baths
- A high-oxalate diet (Diet high in calcium and iron) – Studies from The Vulval Pain Foundation²
- Stress – studies show a link between stress related disorders and autoimmune diseases³
Once you know your triggers, you can try to avoid them.
- if certain fabrics irritate your skin, avoid wearing these and stick to soft, fine-weave clothing or natural materials such as sericin-free silk. DermaSilk is clinically proven to calm sensitive skin in adults and children. The smooth fabric is ideal for lichen sclerosus sufferers as the bonded antimicrobial reduces bacterial contamination, keeping the fabric clean and fresh – perfect for soothing and preventing flare ups
- following a strict hygiene regime can greatly reduce the occurrence and severity of a flare up. Avoid using soaps or detergents that may affect your skin – use soap substitutes instead
- Take steps to manage stress levels e.g. exercise regularly if possible, try meditation/breathing techniques and take time out to relax
- Keep an eye on your skin. There is a small risk of developing vulval cancer in lichen sclerosus, but with good control of the symptoms and signs this risk is reduced further. Lifelong regular self-examination is very important for all females who have genital lichen sclerosus, if you come across any skin changes that concern you, see a GP
¹Kirtschig, G. (2016). Lichen Sclerosus—Presentation, Diagnosis and Management. Deutsches Aerzteblatt [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4904529/
²www.thevpfoundation.org. (n.d.). The Pain Project by Clive Solomons, Ph.D., Director. [online] Available at: https://www.thevpfoundation.org/effective_treatment.htm [Accessed 28 Jun. 2021].
³Song, H., Fang, F., Tomasson, G., Arnberg, F.K., Mataix-Cols, D., Fernández de la Cruz, L., Almqvist, C., Fall, K. and Valdimarsdóttir, U.A. (2018). Association of Stress-Related Disorders With Subsequent Autoimmune Disease. JAMA, [online] 319(23), p.2388. Available at: https://f1000.com/prime/733469239.