By Dr. Susan Mikaelian
One of the most harrowing aspects of dealing with any health issue is the often-overwhelming sense that there may not be a solution for what ails you. So much of dealing with physical concerns ties directly to our mental well-being, and when we feel uncertain and anxious about health issues, that worry will take up residence in our minds and begin to take over our thoughts.
Lichen sclerosus—a condition that can cause painful and unsightly areas of inflammation in our skin—is no different. The good news, however, is that there is hope for people suffering with this disease. With emerging technologies and treatments, patients can experience relief; allowing them to regain not only their physical comfort but alleviate the emotional toll a disease like lichen sclerosus can take.
What is Lichen Sclerosus?
Lichen sclerosus (LS) is a skin condition characterized by patchy areas of skin irritation in the anogenital region. It affects people differently; some with almost no symptoms and others with intense itching, burning, erosions, and pain.
This is a progressive disease that has a remitting and relapsing course, which can eventually lead to permanent scarring in the area. The vulvar skin becomes thin and fragile and can tear and bleed with minimal injury or even chafing. When the disease is severe and scarring is present, there may be problems with urination and with intercourse.
It is thought that lichen sclerosus is an autoimmune disease, with antibodies attacking the skin and leading to inflammation. The standard treatment is to apply a potent topical steroid to decrease inflammation, prevent scarring, and lower the risk of developing skin cancer (there is an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma in women who have vulvar lichen sclerosus, so yearly examinations and long-term treatment are important to control symptoms and decrease inflammation). In severe cases of scarring, surgery may be required to reduce problems with urination or to allow intercourse.
Lichen Sclerosus Treatment: Encouraging the Body’s Natural Healing Processes with PRP (Platelet-rich plasma)
There are novel treatments for lichen sclerosus which are showing promise, particularly platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections. PRP is a high concentration of a person’s platelet cells from the blood, centrifuged, concentrated, and suspended in a small amount of plasma. PRP is isolated from a blood draw and then injected back into that person’s wounds or inflammatory areas in the skin. This technology harnesses the ability of the body to heal itself naturally because platelets are packed with many growth factor molecules that respond to injury by recovering and healing tissue. The growth factors attract a person’s stem cells to the area to help grow new skin and blood vessels, and furthermore suppress the release of inflammatory proteins in the injured area to limit inflammation.
Though research is largely from individuals and small groups, there are several studies that show hastened healing and recovery with PRP injections into wounds after trauma or with chronic diabetic ulcers.
When traditional treatments are not working or cannot be tolerated, PRP can be a natural, regenerative medical option for patients. I am seeing good results with PRP in our clinic in healing lichen sclerosus lesions and decreasing inflammation to reduce flare-ups of the symptoms. It is a promising new treatment option for women with lichen sclerosus because, unlike our current treatment options, PRP utilizes the body’s own healing mechanisms to promote tissue regeneration and can lead to resolution of symptoms.
About Dr. Susan Mikaelian
Dr. Susan Mikaelian specializes in Women’s Intimate Wellness. As a board-certified gynecologist, the mom of four boys, and a woman, Dr. Mikaelian brings her expertise and passion for helping women regain the functional and aesthetic intimate results they desire. Whether a woman is seeking surgical, non-surgical, or a combination of both options, Dr. Mikaelian is highly trained in the emerging and modern treatments available.
To schedule a consultation, please call 719-355-3861 or email email@example.com.