A skin condition people keep secret could disrupt your sex life
| New York Times – Patients deal with pain and itching and often encounter medical ignorance and mistreatment until affected tissues become irreparably scarred.
You’ve probably heard of lichens, complex organisms consisting of a fungus and an alga (and sometimes a bacterium) that break down rocks to create soil.
Though lichens vary widely in color and form, most often seen are the white crusty varieties that colonize the surface of trees, rocks and barren soil.
This type has lent its name to a little-known skin disease — lichen sclerosus — that typically manifests as white crusts on genital tissues and is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed before it wreaks havoc on people’s lives.
A related disorder, lichen planus, more often affects the skin and inside of the mouth but can also affect genital membranes, where it can be more challenging to treat than lichen sclerosus.
Although lichen sclerosus can form on any skin surface, it has a predilection for a woman’s vulva and, less often, a man’s penis, and it can so disrupt people’s sex lives that divorce or celibacy is sometimes the outcome.
Lichen planus generally has broader targets, but an erosive form can affect the anal-genital region and other body parts and be as destructive as lichen sclerosus.
In addition to pain, both conditions can cause intense itching that, lacking an accurate diagnosis, patients may mistreat with creams and other substances that only make matters worse. Doctors, too, may mistake the problem for a yeast infection and prescribe the wrong treatment.
Furthermore, people rarely talk freely about diseases that attack the vulva or penis, even to their doctors, which delays a correct diagnosis and effective treatment. But even when patients overcome their embarrassment, they often run up against medical ignorance and mistreatment until affected tissues become irreparably scarred. Read more.
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