Lichen sclerosus (LS) is a chronic inflammatory dermatosis localized mainly in the anogenital region, accompanied by itching, atrophy and sclerosis. Progressive destructive scarring in genital lichen sclerosus (GLS) may result in burying of the clitoris in females and phimosis in males. Affected persons have an increased risk of genital cancers. It is often unrecognized in everyday clinical practice due to undiagnosed squamous cell carcinoma at the site of lesions. Remissions are rare and the estimated remission rate is only 16%. GLS is a lifelong, incurable condition, but signifi cant improvement can be achieved. Numerous therapeutic modalities have been used in GLS; unfortunately, the number of controlled studies is small and the results are mostly related to the management of symptoms, not the progression of the disease and destructive scarring. A systemic meta analysis of seven randomized controlled trials on local therapy of GLS was performed. It included a total of 249 patients treated with six topical agents: clobetasol propionate, mometasone furoate, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, progesterone and pimecrolimus. Topical corticosteroids, clobetasol propionate 0.05% (highly potent) and mometasone furoate 0.05% (potent), showed to be significantly more efficient compared to placebo. Pimecrolimus 1% cream and clobetasol propionate 0.05% showed similar efficacy. Both agents have proven effective in the treatment of GLS: there was no statistically significant difference in relieving symptoms of pruritus and burning/pain. Tacrolimus 0.1% ointment also proved to be effective in the treatment of GLS. Topical androgens and progesterone did not show significant efficacy. Topical tretinoin and calcipotriol have been used with limited success, but they may induce irritation, so they are rarely used in the treatment of GLS. Other therapeutic options for GLS include ultraviolet A1 (UVA-1) phototherapy, methotrexate, retinoids, cyclosporine, stanozolol, hydroxychloroquine, calcitriol, laser and photodynamic therapy, but the number of patients is small to allow for conclusive assessment. Surgery is not a standard therapeutic option for GLS.
In conclusion, treatment of GLS should be carried out in two phases: introduction of remission and maintenance of remission; topical therapy should include highly potent corticosteroids once daily during three months, followed by twice per week, or twice daily during 4 to 6 weeks, and then twice per week. There are different opinions regarding maintenance therapy: application of super potent or potent topical corticosteroids; these patients need long-term, several-year follow-up, although there is no agreement what parameters should be assessed; treatment efficacy is often reduced to monitoring GLS symptoms.
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