Just a quick warning, I will be talking about sexual things. If you are sensitive to that I completely understand but this may not be the blog for you.
I also want to set proper expectations. Lichen Sclerosus has many symptoms and progressions. Unfortunately, there are too many and span too many degrees for me to cover in one article. This piece will focus on women who do not suffer from severe fusing or other sexual complications that may require surgery.
To honor you that are suffering these awful symptoms, I hope to bring in someone knowledgeable about these cases. I do not feel comfortable speaking on it because those are not my experiences and I am sensitive to your plight.
Does Lichen Sclerosus Affect Our Sex Life?
How does having Lichen Sclerosus change our sex life? How do we talk to our partners about sex? What can we do to make sex better when we have Lichen Sclerosus?
What Does the Science Say?
In 2014 the Journal of Women’s Health published a study done by the University of Michigan Health System titled “The Impact of Vulvar Lichen Sclerosus on Sexual Dysfunction”.
They studied 337 women divided into three groups one group had valvular Lichen Sclerosus, one chronic yeast infections, and the last was completely healthy. The women were of various ages, races, relationship statuses, and social-economic situations.
The study concluded,
Women with Lichen Sclerosus suffer from a greater degree of sexual dysfunction than both healthy women and those with Candida infections…Women with Lichen Sclerosus have less frequent sexual activity and less satisfying sexual activity when compared with controls.
How Does Lichen Sclerosus Affect sex?
There are four main ways Lichen Sclerosus affects our sex lives.
Lichen Sclerosus makes our vulva skin thin. This makes us susceptible to tearing. If you have ever touched an open sore you will understand the pain it causes. Now imagine sliding your finger over and over across that sore with varying degrees of pressure, that’s how sex can feel when you have LS.
The friction of rubbing skin can also cause burns. Rub your hands together. Feel your skin get hot. Now think about how that would feel if the skin on your palms was paper-thin. It would be manageable but not pleasant.
Let’s not forget the pain of having sex when you have fissures, blisters or tears already, sex just amplifies that pain. Sometimes we force ourselves to have sex because our partners want to and we do not want to deny them, either out of love, obligation, or because we desire them as well. This is not healthy for us mentally or physically. Continuing to have sex when we anticipate pain can lead to vaginismus (the contraction of the vagina muscles when approached by something trying to penetrate it), which will lead to more complications.
Women who have partial fusing of the labia may find that their capacity to be penetrated is greatly reduced and will feel pain if penetration is forced. Some may not know that their opening is smaller because they do not look at their vulva. They run the risk of tearing and causing greater damage as well.
Our desire to have sex or libido is closely tied to our self-esteem. If we do not feel worthy, desirable, or sexy our libido will lower drastically. Our lower self-esteem will have us questioning ourselves. Does my partner still desire me? Do they still find me sexy? What if I can’t perform the way I use to?
All these question race through our mind causing anxiety. Stressing us out and leading to fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of losing our relationship, on top of the fear sex will hurt again.
Mentally and Emotionally
All of this anxiety and self-doubt can manifest mentally and emotionally. We can start withdrawing because we don’t want to get hurt, emotionally and physically. Our minds can play tricks on us. Things our partners do could be misconstrued as signs they no longer desire us because we already question ourselves.
Our physical body plays a big part in our sex life. If we are having an outbreak or have fissures, blisters, or legions we are less likely to want to have sex (see pain). If you are suffering any type of atrophy (fusing) your hole may be too small for your partner to penetrate you. Forcing sex in any of these contains can cause vaginismus, creating another complication to a healthy sex life.
How Do We Talk To Our Partners About Sex and Lichen Sclerosus?
Easiest to deal with because
- You have been together for a long time
- Have a shared past
- Sex is probably not one of the most important things in the relationship
- Strong emotional and spiritual connection
- You have probably spoken about Lichen Sclerosus and your symptoms so they understand
A little harder because
- You haven’t had as many life experiences with this person
- May not know how committed you are
- Might be unsure how important sex in the relationship is to your partner
Could have it the hardest because
- You have to decide at what point do you tell your partner about Lichen Sclerosus and how it can affect your sex life
- They may not believe you and think you are hiding an STD
- Might not want to commit to a relationship where there could be stretches of time they can not have sex
In all of these situations, you have to take into account the level of the relationship and maturity of the person you are dealing with. If you haven’t yet explain what Lichen Sclerosus is. Tell them your symptoms, and the symptoms in general. Use my episode on symptoms as a resource if you need it. If they are more of a visual person I have a YouTube video as well. Tell them how you feel mentally and emotionally as well. Let them support you.
Be open and honest. Let them know what the disease looks like if it progresses. They may have a lot of questions. Answer them but try not to overwhelm them or yourself. They have to commit to taking on your life sentence if they decide to stay with you. If they can not stand by you then it’s better you find out now then later.
How Do We Improve Sex With Lichen Sclerosus?
There are ways to make sex enjoyable even with Lichen Sclerosus. The biggest tip I found was to use hypoallergenic lubrication. Coconut oil was recommended as a natural lube, although I have never used it.
You can also find new ways to bring intimacy into your relationship. If you are unable to withstand your usual foreplay, like me, get creative and come up with new ways to get each other in the mood. It may have to be more verbal and visual rather than physical. You could also bring in soft toys you can tolerate better.
Experiment with new positions that do not require as much penetration. Communicate with your partner. Let them know what feels good and what hurts.
If you do have fusing or suffer from vaginismus you can use medical dilators to stretch the skin or relax the vagina muscles. Start with the smallest one you can tolerate and work your way up.
Lichen Sclerosus can affect our quality and quantity of sex. It can change how we look at ourselves and sex. Low self-esteem can cause us to question ourselves and our partners. Pain during sex can lead to fear, making us shy away from wanting sex.
We have to communicate with our sexual partners. Explain the pain, lower libido, anxieties, and lower self-esteem. Let them know how the amount of and the act of sex could change in the future. Come up with a plan on how we will navigate that change.
Let them help us come up with new ways that will keep sex satisfying. Find new ways to entice each other. Use lubrication if needed and try sex with minimal or no penetration.
If all else fails there are more aggressive treatments such as laser or stem cell injections. I have not researched them yet but will be doing so in the near future.
If you have any other tips for improving our sex lives while we suffer from Lichen Sclerosus please send me an email or click the teal button on the side and leave me a voicemail. I would love to hear from you. If you found this helpful and think someone else would as well, please use the buttons below to share.
Have an amazing week!