Vulvar lichen sclerosus : pathophysiology and treatment

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2004;5(2):105-25. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200405020-00005.


Lichen sclerosus is a chronic disorder of the skin and mucosal surfaces, and is most commonly seen on the female genital skin. It also occurs on other areas of the body. Any age group may be affected, although it is seen more often in elderly women. The exact cause of lichen sclerosus is unknown. There have been reports of family members with lichen sclerosus; thus it may have a genetic link. There is also the possibility of an autoimmune connection. Currently, ultra-potent topical corticosteroids are the medical treatment of choice. Other treatments that have been utilized for this condition include testosterone, progesterone, tacrolimus, surgery, and phototherapy. Surgery should be reserved for symptomatic patients who fail to respond to multiple medical treatments, as there is a high recurrence rate following surgery. The risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva approaches 5% in women with vulvar lichen sclerosus, and therefore close surveillance by the healthcare provider and patient is needed. This review discusses the history, clinical features, pathophysiology, and treatment of lichen sclerosus of the vulva, as well as pregnancy issues and sexual function in patients with this condition. In addition, problems specific to children with lichen sclerosus are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus / drug therapy*
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus / physiopathology*
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophicus / surgery
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage
  • Vulvar Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Vulvar Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Vulvar Diseases / surgery


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Testosterone