Lichen sclerosus is a skin problem that causes thin, wrinkled patches. These patches usually look white in lighter skin. In darker skin, the patches may look lighter or darker than the skin around them. The patches are itchy and painful. If the skin tears, bright red or purple spots may appear. In most cases, it occurs on the skin of the genitals.
In children, lichen sclerosus is more common on the vulva or around the anus. But it can also appear around the tip of the penis and on the foreskin.
Lichen sclerosus is usually treated with prescription cream or ointment, such as a steroid medicine. Treatment is important. That's because without treatment, the skin can thicken and scar. This can make going to the bathroom difficult and painful. If scar tissue forms, it may need to be removed with surgery.
Doctors aren't sure what causes lichen sclerosus. It isn't caused by an infection, and it can't be spread to others. The condition can be long-lasting (chronic). In some cases, lichen sclerosus goes away on its own. But any scars that have formed won't go away.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
How can you care for your child at home?
- Be safe with medicines. If the doctor prescribed a cream, apply it exactly as directed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.
- Put cold, wet cloths on the area to reduce itching.
- Help your child choose loose-fitting clothes. Avoid nylon and other fabric that holds moisture close to the skin.
- Avoid hot baths. Don't use soaps or bath products to wash the area around your child's vulva. Rinse with water only. Then gently pat the area dry.
- Keep your child's penis clean. If your child hasn't been circumcised, gently pull the foreskin back (if you can) to wash the penis with warm water. Make sure the penis is dry before your child gets dressed.
When should you call for help?
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- Your child has symptoms of infection, such as:
- Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
- Red streaks leading from the area.
- Pus draining from the area.
- A fever.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- The affected area grows or changes.
- Your child has new or worse symptoms.
- Your child does not get better as expected.
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine & Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology