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Keywords:

  • lichen sclerosus;
  • skin diseases;
  • vulva;
  • vulvar cancer

Background:  Adult vulval lichen sclerosus (VLS) is usually a lifelong disease with an estimated remission rate after treatment of only 16% [Arch Dermatol 2004; 140 (6): 709]. Although superpotent topical corticosteroid (TCS) is the validated gold standard treatment to induce remission, little data are available on how remission should be maintained.

Aims:  We present a retrospective chart review of 129 adult patients with VLS who have been under surveillance by the authors for a minimum duration of three years.

Methods:  Remission was maintained in most patients with low-to-moderate potency TCS. All subjects’ symptoms, signs, treatment regimes and response to treatment including compliance, symptom remission, disease progression with scarring, squamous cell carcinoma and side effects were recorded. Data were compared for the compliant and non-compliant groups. Fischer’s exact test was used to identify significant differences.

Results:  The mean age at presentation was 53.6 years and mean duration of follow-up was 6.2 years. Compliance was excellent: 84 (65%) of patients’ self-reporting as being fully compliant. Symptom remission was achieved in 98% of compliant and 75% of non-compliant patients (P = 0.001) Progression of disease with scarring was not encountered in any of the compliant patients, but was seen in 35% of non-compliant patients (P = 0.0001). One patient had squamous cell carcinoma on first presentation. Carcinoma subsequently occurred in none of the compliant patients, and in five partly compliant patients (P = 0.004). Mild, reversible corticosteroid side effects were encountered in 7% of patients.

Conclusions:  Long-term treatment of adult VLS with individualised regimes using moderate potency TCS is safe and effective. Patients require long-term follow-up.