Acupuncture and Chinese medicine for Lichen Sclerosus
Lichen sclerosus is an uncommon skin condition. It used to be called lichen sclerosus et atrophicus, but it is often now just called lichen sclerosus. It most commonly affects the genital skin (vulva) of women. Less commonly it affects other areas of the skin. It can occur at any age but most commonly develops in young girls and also in women who have gone through the menopause. It is estimated that Lichen sclerosus affects about 1 in 1,000 women. However, it may be more common than this, as some mild cases may go undiagnosed.
In males, lichen sclerosus affects the foreskin and end of the penis. It is less common than in women, affecting around 1 in 100,000 men. It is more common in young boys and also adult men. Lichen sclerosus in males is sometimes also called balanitis xerotica obliterans.
Women and girls - vulval and anal area
In a typical case, small pearly white spots develop on the genital skin (vulva). The spots are usually itchy. However, in some people, there is no itch or other discomfort and lichen sclerosus is sometimes diagnosed by chance when the genitals are examined by a doctor for another reason. In about 3 in 10 cases, the skin around the back passage (anus) is also affected. Sometimes only the skin around the anus is affected. Typically, the itch and irritation becomes persistent and distressing. The itch tends to be worse at night which can disturb sleep. Sometimes soreness rather than itch is the main symptom. Lichen sclerosus is a skin condition only and does not extend into the vagina or inside the anus.
Over time, the white spots may become larger and join together. The whole vulva and / or anal skin may then become white and be more fragile than normal. The fragile skin may become damaged, inflamed, raw, and prone to painful splitting and cracking. It also may become painful to have sex. If the anal skin is affected, passing poo (faeces) may cause pain.
If left untreated, over months or years the vulva may shrink (atrophy). In some cases the changes of the vulval skin may make the entrance to the vagina narrower. This can make it difficult or painful to have sex. Also, thrush and other infections tend to be more common if the vulva is sore or cracked.
Symptoms may slowly get worse but not all the above symptoms may occur. It can take months or years from the first small spots to progress to more severe symptoms. At first the symptoms may be mistaken for thrush or other problems.
The appearance is often fairly typical, in which case no further tests are needed. If the diagnosis is in doubt, a small sample (biopsy) of affected skin may be taken under local anaesthetic. The sample of skin is put under the microscope to look at the structure of the skin cells and tissues. This can confirm the diagnosis and rule out other disorders which can sometimes copy (mimic) this condition.
If lichen sclerosus is diagnosed it is usual also to do a routine blood test to check for an underactive thyroid gland. This is because of the association between lichen sclerosus and autoimmune diseases and, in particular, autoimmune thyroid disease. Up to 3 in 10 people with lichen sclerosus also have an underactive thyroid gland.
For thousands of years, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has used herbs and acupuncture to treat a variety of maladies from internal health problems to skin disorders, such as lichen sclerosus, anal itching (itchy bottom), eczema, acne, psoriasis, alopecia and others. Many practitioners today continue to apply these methods to treat their patients who prefer a less invasive and non-chemical treatment.
Regarding lichen sclerosus, TCM holds the belief that it is due to an intolerance to wind, wetness or heat in the skin. TCM mainly uses diagnosis and treatment, on the basis of the types of causes. These include Wind-Heat type, Hot and Humid type, Wet Spleen type, Blood Deficiency and Wind-Dry type.
Aside from the extensive use of Chinese herbs, traditional Chinese medicine also recommends acupuncture as a parallel treatment for lichen sclerosus. Stimulation of acupuncture points increases the production of endorphins and simultaneously activates the immune and endocrine systems. Acupuncture points are specific nerve points that give particular access to the system of energetic meridians, which perform different functions depending on their location.
Mr Chak Hong Lui of Doctor Lui Clinic is a qualified practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine including Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Remedy. If you are looking for some treatment, contact Mr Lui and talk to him about Chinese medicine and acupuncture on 020 7386 8623 or firstname.lastname@example.org.