Understanding What Causes Lichen Sclerosus Flare-Ups

As many of us know, it’s easy for information about women’s healthcare to slip through the cracks. And if you don’t know what to ask or what to look for when you have concerns, it becomes even harder to get advice on how to handle things. 

That’s why we're deeply committed to illuminating the lesser-discussed corners of women's health, particularly those conditions that might feel too personal or stigmatized to talk about openly. 

Lichen sclerosus, a chronic and often uncomfortable skin condition that primarily affects the genital and vulvar areas, is one such condition that can affect both men and women — but few people have ever even heard of it. 

Let’s talk in-depth about lichen sclerosus to demystify its causes, explore its symptoms, and empower you with knowledge and solutions for managing its flare-ups.

What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a condition that affects the skin of your genital area and can lead to soreness, itching, and other frustrating symptoms. On a whole, this skin disorder is characterized by intense inflammation, leading to the appearance of white, patchy skin that can become thin, wrinkled, and prone to tearing. 

Because it’s located primarily in the genital and vulvar regions, it can evoke a sense of isolation and embarrassment due to its sensitive nature, and that means it can be hard to talk about. However, it’s important to remember that despite its location, lichen sclerosus is an autoimmune disease like any other. 

There’s no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed, and the more you internalize that reality, the easier it will be to talk about it and explore treatment options. 

Like other autoimmune conditions, lichen sclerosus causes the immune system to attack healthy skin cells, resulting in the characteristic symptoms. The discomfort, both physical and emotional, comes from symptoms like itchiness, pain during intercourse, and visual changes to your vulva and surrounding skin.

What Causes It, and Who’s at Risk?

Lichen sclerosus most often affects postmenopausal women, largely due to changes in estrogen levels. Yet, it's not exclusive to them — men and kids can find themselves dealing with it, too, especially around areas like the foreskin. 

With its roots in autoimmune responses, anyone with an autoimmune condition might find themselves more prone to lichen sclerosus. This means the body’s defense system gets a bit confused and starts attacking healthy skin cells, leading to the telltale signs: inflammation, white patches, and discomfort in the genital area. And if there's a history of autoimmune diseases like vitiligo or scleroderma in your family, the chances might tick up a bit more.

Environmental factors, like certain detergents or coming into contact with irritants, can also turn up the heat on symptoms, pointing to a mix of genetics and lifestyle playing a role. Knowing this helps in getting ahead with early detection and support, highlighting the importance of keeping an eye out for symptoms and understanding who's most at risk. 

This knowledge empowers more informed discussions and routine checks, particularly for those in higher-risk groups, navigating through lichen sclerosus with more awareness and less guesswork.

Can You Get Rid of Lichen Sclerosus?

We know it might not be what you want to hear, but if you’ve been diagnosed, it’s more about living with and managing lichen sclerosus than curing it. Once you’re affected, it’s possible that your symptoms will improve over time with treatment, but it’s not likely to ever go away completely. 

But this skin condition, though chronic, doesn't have to dictate the quality of your life! There are many things you can do to help improve symptoms and ensure that it doesn’t impact how you feel about sexual intercourse in the future. 

But before we get to that, let’s talk about some common triggers for flare-ups.

What Triggers Lichen Sclerosus Flare-Ups?

Lichen sclerosus flare-ups can be sparked by a variety of factors, making management a bit of a balancing act. For many, hormonal changes, particularly around menopause, can play a significant role. The thinning and sensitivity of the vulvar skin during this time can heighten the risk of irritation and inflammation. 

Autoimmune conditions, which affect the body's immune response, can also lead to more frequent or severe episodes. Physical irritants are another common trigger; tight clothing, harsh soaps, and even certain detergents can aggravate the sensitive genital area, leading to discomfort. 

If you’re finding flare-ups to be more common than not, it’s worth scheduling a follow-up with your doctor to ensure that there’s nothing else at play. This is also true if you can’t pinpoint the cause of lichen sclerosus flare-ups, as there’s no one better equipped than your doctor to help you zero in on what in your day-to-day you might need to address to find relief. 

While treatment options (more on that in another section) can help manage your condition, taking steps to avoid flare-ups is the other half of the battle.

What Can You Do About It?

Managing lichen sclerosus is a journey of care, education, and self-compassion. This journey begins with the vital step of diagnosis and continues with a tailored approach to treatment and daily management.

First, Speak To Your Doctor

If you have concerns that are starting to sound like lichen sclerosus, don’t hesitate to speak to your doctor. The longer you put off getting treatment, the more difficult it can be to manage in the long run.

Even if you feel uncomfortable, it’s important to speak to a professional first. Your doctor or gynecologist will be skilled at dealing with lichen sclerosus, understanding its root causes, preventing serious complications, and ensuring your treatment plan evolves with your needs. This could include prescriptions for medications, often a corticosteroid or steroid ointment.

If you’re a man affected by lichen sclerosus, circumcision may be an option for you. Removing the foreskin can, of course, be a fraught conversation for a variety of reasons, both physical and emotional. Still, it can potentially fix the symptoms of lichen sclerosus and provide long-term relief.

Consider Some Lifestyle Changes

You can make some simple changes in your habits and routines to help improve flare-ups more quickly and prevent hard skin or lesions from turning into painful blisters. For one, sticking to loose-fitting, breezy clothing can help. 

Likewise, minimizing exposure to irritants like harsh detergents and adopting a balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can support your skin overall and help your body get to work on fighting back that flare-up. In a similar vein, simple things that promote overall well-being can be beneficial, too.

These things include regular exercise, stress management techniques, and adequate hydration. Though basic, steps like these can play a crucial role in managing autoimmune conditions and their skin manifestations, helping to alleviate soreness and prevent fissures in the affected areas.

Up Your Skincare Routine

If you’re following your dermatologist’s advice on how to care for your face, it’s also worth giving some of the same love to your labia and other sensitive parts. Our VMAGIC® Lichen Sclerosus Care set offers a gentle, supportive complement to the care of the vulvar area. 

Designed with an understanding of the delicate skin affected by this condition, our products provide a soothing embrace for areas experiencing dryness, inflammation, or the discomfort of lesions and fissures. 

The natural formulations within this bundle are specifically chosen to nourish and protect without the harsh side effects that can accompany some topical steroids and other medications. For those navigating the inflammatory flare-ups of lichen sclerosus, the emollient qualities of our products offer a reprieve, moisturizing the skin and forming a protective barrier against irritants like detergents and other potential triggers. 

Incorporating these products into your daily regimen can enhance the health of the vulva, support the integrity of the affected skin, and provide a sense of relief and control over your symptoms. 

Empowerment Through Understanding

Lichen sclerosus is a complex skin condition that throws a spotlight on the importance of understanding our bodies, especially the vulvar and genital areas. Whether it's navigating the journey through menopause, considering the implications of autoimmune disorders, or simply keeping an eye out for the first signs of white patches or soreness, knowledge is key. 

With a range of treatment options, from topical steroids to emollient creams and the guidance of dermatology experts, managing this condition becomes a path of empowerment rather than uncertainty. Whether dealing with the occasional discomfort or more persistent symptoms, reaching out for support and exploring all available treatment options can make all the difference in living well with lichen sclerosus.


Lichen Sclerosus | National Library of Medicine

Lichen Sclerosus—Presentation, Diagnosis and Management | National Library of Medicine

Lichen Sclerosus | Yale Medicine

Autoimmune Responses Are Directed Against Self Antigens | National Library of Medicine

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