Lichen sclerosus is a chronic skin disease, mainly localised at the introitus and perineum. When the condition remains untreated, gradual atrophy of skin structures leads to permanent scarring, making early diagnosis and treatment crucial. We reviewed all patients diagnosed with lichen sclerosus presenting to a tertiary referral centre for paediatric and adolescent gynaecology between January 2011 and December 2015 to assess disease presentation and response to treatment. We identified 15 cases, with a mean age at diagnosis of 8.8 years. Their main presenting symptoms were vulvar pruritus and vulvar soreness. Seven girls had already atrophic changes, and in four girls, this amounted to clitoral phimosis, labial resorption or labial adhesion formation. The median delay in diagnosis was 7 months. Thirteen patients received local treatment with potent corticosteroids, responding well to treatment. However, 4 girls relapsed within 2 to 36 months. Two adolescents required surgical treatment, one because of urinary retention and the second because of dyspareunia caused by clitoral entrapment.
Conclusions: There was a delay in diagnosis in most patients and this resulted in irreversible genital skin changes, which would have been preventable, had treatment been instituted promptly. The response to treatment with local corticosteroids was usually effective, leading to both symptom alleviation and prevention of disease progression. Atrophic changes and skin complications however were not reversed.
What is Known:
• Lichen sclerosus affects women of all ages, including girls, particularly prior to adolescence.
• Lichen sclerosus responds well to local corticosteroid treatment.
What is New:
• In the majority of patients with lichen sclerosus there was a long delay between onset of symptoms and diagnosis.
• Nearly half of the children diagnosed with lichen sclerosus had irreversible atrophic genital skin changes at the time of first presentation. These changes may have been prevented by a timely diagnosis and intervention.
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There was no funding for this study.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of our institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Communicated by Mario Bianchetti
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Nerantzoulis, I., Grigoriadis, T. & Michala, L. Genital lichen sclerosus in childhood and adolescence—a retrospective case series of 15 patients: early diagnosis is crucial to avoid long-term sequelae. Eur J Pediatr 176, 1429–1432 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00431-017-3004-y
- Lichen sclerosus
- Case series
- Vulvar atrophy