What Is Lichen Sclerosus?

Lichen sclerosus is a long-term problem of the skin. It mostly affects the genital and anal areas. Sometimes, lichen sclerosus appears on the upper body, breasts, and upper arms. For this article I am just going to talk about Lichen Sclerosus of the genital region (Vulva) and more around how this affects women and how it can be treated and managed. Lichen sclerosus can cause itching, pain and scarring of the affected areas, but there are treatments available that can relieve symptoms and prevent and treat scarring.

Who Does Lichen Sclerosis Affect?

While anyone can get lichen sclerosus at any age, women after the menopause have the highest risk. In fact, it is about 10 times more common in women than in men. It is possible, but rare, for children to be affected.

What Are the Symptoms?

Early in the disease, small white spots appear on the skin. The spots are usually shiny and smooth. Later, the spots grow into bigger patches. The skin on the patches becomes thin and crinkled. The skin may also be inflamed and red or ulcerated from scratching.

Skin affected by lichen sclerosus can tear easily, and there may be tiny fissures (cracks in the skin). When severe, there may be bleeding and blistering.Sometimes, the skin becomes scarred. If the disease is a mild case, there may be no symptoms. 
Other symptoms are:

  • Itching (very common)
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Bleeding

Genital lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus that affects the vulva usually feels intensely itchy. There may also be pain, stinging, burning or discomfort, especially during sex or when urinating.

Lichen sclerosus is a chronic, or ongoing, condition, and over time it can lead to scarring. If this affects the vulva, it may narrow the entrance to the vagina, interfering with sexual intercourse.

Women with severe lichen sclerosus in the genitals may not be able to have sex. The disease can cause scars that narrow the vagina. Also, sex can hurt and cause the patches to bleed. However, treatment with creams or ointments can help. Women with severe scarring in the vagina may need surgery, but only after lichen sclerosus is controlled with medication. When the skin around the anus is affected, pain when emptying the bowels can lead to constipation.

What Causes Lichen Sclerosus?

Doctors don’t know the exact cause of lichen sclerosus. Some doctors think a too active immune system and hormone problems may play a role. In women, lichen sclerosus also seems to be associated with autoimmune diseases (conditions where the immune system attacks the body), such as lupus , alopecia and thyroid disease. It is also thought that people inherit the likelihood of getting the disease. There may also be a hormonal involvement as It is also more common after menopause, when there is less oestrogen in the body.

Lichen sclerosus is more likely to appear on skin that has been damaged or scarred from some other previous injury. Importantly, lichen sclerosus is not infectious and your partner cannot catch it during sex.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Lichen sclerosus can often be diagnosed from the appearance of the affected skin. It is important that your GP refer you to a pelvic floor/urodynamic specialist, reproductive medicine specialist or women’s healthy specialist that specialises in conditions affecting the female reproductive organs. Sometimes a referral to a dermatologist may also be needed also.

Besides visual diagnosis, a biopsy may be recommended to confirm the diagnosis. This involves taking a small sample of affected tissue for a pathologist to examine under a microscope. This allows specialists to make sure that it is not a different disease.

Treatment of lichen sclerosus

Treatment of lichen sclerosus is aimed at:

  • Relieving symptoms of itch and discomfort;
  • Healing the lesions (returning the affected skin to its normal colour and texture);
  • Preventing the development of scar tissue; and
  • Treating any scar tissue that has developed.

Medical Treatments for Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is usually treated by applying a strong steriod cream, or ointment to the affected area. This is usually applied daily for several weeks, or months, and then less frequently (once or twice per week) long-term to prevent a recurrence.

Corticosteroid ointment or cream should be applied only to the white patches and gently rubbed in. Try to avoid applying steroid to the normal surrounding skin to help prevent side effects.

Symptoms such as itch may improve within a couple of days of starting corticosteroid treatment. Healing of lesions generally takes longer.

Women with Lichen Sclerosis will need regular follow up consultations and management with their specialist while using these creams and ointments for a long time because they can cause the following

  • Thinning and redness of the skin
  • Stretch marks where the cream is applied
  • Genital yeast infections.

Sometimes, women just do not get better using this medication and there could be other things that could be stopping symptoms from clearing up. This could be from the following:

  • Low estrogen levels
  • Infection
  • Allergy to the medication.

Other treatments

If topical steroid treatment is not effective, your specialist may recommend other medications and treatments that target the immune system and help control inflammation.

  • Sometimes other medications such as Retinoids, or vitamin A-like drugs are used and your specialist may also recommend laser treatment.
  • If scarring has occurred, this does not usually improve with steroid treatment. Scarring in females that is affecting sexual intercourse or urination may be helped by surgery
  • There are also some new medical treatments that are presently being researched and providing some amazing results options and I will discuss at a later date. They are actually natural medicines that are being used as a medical treatments. All I can say is that I have seen the results of this new treatment option and I think it is going to help many people. At present on of my colleagues, Dr Philip Hall, is using this treatment to help women as part of a research project. I will update people when I am allowed to say more about this new treatment.

Natural Medicine Treatments

  • There are natural medicine treatments that have been shown to help Lichen Sclerosus
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Acupuncture
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Nutritional Supplements
  • Diet and nutritional changes ( to help reduce inflammation)
  • Counselling ( to help with dealing with the long term affects of dealing with this disease)

Self-care measures for genital lichen sclerosus

The following self-care measures may help in the treatment of lichen sclerosus that affects the genital area.

  • Gently wash the area daily with warm water and pH neutral soap cleanser.
  • Try not to rub or scratch the area. This can sometimes be really hard when it is itchy and inflamed
  • Avoid tight clothing and any activities that may aggravate itching and discomfort, such as bike riding.
  • Your specialist may recommend you apply cream to gently moisturise and protect the area.
  • Women should use a mirror to become familiar with the location and appearance of their genital lesions, and to apply cream or ointment to the affected area of the vulva.

Complications and follow-up

If you have been diagnosed with lichen sclerosus then it is advisable to have regular follow-up appointments with your specialist every 6 to 12 months. In addition, genital lichen sclerosus is associated with a small, but important, increase in the risk of cancer developing at the affected site. Frequent check-ups are important to detect any cancers early on, when they can be more easily treated.

I have treated many women with Lichen Sclerosus in my years in practice and I do find that a multimodality approach is the best way to treat and manage this disease effectively. Sometimes you need to have a team to help treat this, just like many other diseases women endure.So many women are are at their wits end with this disease and all sorts of treatments that have not worked. I can say this if this disease is treated and manage properly, it can give women their quality of life back.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Medicine Specialist

Women’s & Men’s Health Crusader

-“No Stone Left Unturned”

 

 

 

 

Could you need an Iron Infusion?

Iron infusion: Uses, benefits, and what to expect

As a reproductive medicine and women’s health specialist I am used to seeing women with really low iron, due to various gynaecological conditions.

Many women do not even know they are low in iron until they get bloods tests to show that they are. Being low in iron can be very dangerous for a woman on so many levels.

Many women who are suffering from fatigue are actually low in iron.

Symptoms of low iron can include

Fatigue

Dizziness

Fainting, or feeling of feeling faint

Pale skin

Breathless

Frequent headaches

Palpitations, or racing heart

Easily irritated

Difficulty in concentrating

Cracked, or reddened tongue

Loss of appetite

Strange food cravings

Risk Factors For Low Iron

Heavy menstrual bleeds

Endometriosis

Adenomyosis

Fibroids

Coeliac disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Pregnant and Breast Feeding Women

Certain Cancers

Vegetarians and Vegans

Girls going through puberty

Certain illnesses

Sometimes when Iron gets too low, supplements just will not be enough to get iron levels up to where they should be quick enough. This is where iron infusions can be very effective.

So what is an Iron Infusion?

An Iron infusion is when iron is delivered via an intravenous line into a person’s body.

Increasing the amount of iron a person has in their blood can cure anaemia, or increase a low red blood cell count.

The body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is an important part of red blood cells and helps carry oxygen around the body.

If a person does not have enough hemoglobin, they can feel tired, or have symptoms mentioned previously. An iron infusion may be used for someone with an iron deficiency when supplements do not work.

As discussed before, there are a variety of medical reasons can cause low iron levels, so your doctor, or healthcare specialist will order iron studies and other tests to see what may be causing someone to be deficient in iron.

An iron infusion may be given if a person’s blood counts are so low that taking iron supplements or increasing their daily intake of iron-containing foods would be ineffective or too slow in increasing their iron levels.

What to expect

A person will go to a doctor’s office, hospital, or another healthcare facility to have an iron infusion. This is done intravenously and the infusion will take between 15-30 minutes if it is given in amounts of 200-300 milligrams (mg). In days gone by iron infusions would take hours to do and would have to be done in a hospital setting.

The new rapid iron infusions allow iron into the body much quicker and have little to no side effects compared to the older solutions that took hours to administer and were not as good as the new versions used now.

What happens after an iron infusion?

An individual can experience some mild side effects after an iron infusion. The symptoms are usually mild side effects such as headaches, metallic taste in the mouth, or some mild joint pain. Some people can feel faint and nauseas after an infusion but this is usually people who do not tolerate having blood taken, or having needles given. Reactions to infusion are rare, but your healthcare provider will explain all this too you. There are some people who may be allergic to iron, just like people can be allergic to certain foods.

Most people will only need one infusion done, but sometimes people with very low iron may need multiple infusions done. This will be after careful monitoring and testing to see where your iron levels are.

Usually iron levels will return to normal and symptoms of iron deficiency will decrease several weeks after the infusion. A doctor will regularly check the person’s iron levels and blood counts to ensure the iron infusion is working.

Iron infusion vs. injection

Doctors can administer iron to someone via an injection or an infusion.

Iron injections are given intramuscularly, but while iron injections may be faster than iron infusions to administer, they can have some unpleasant side effects. Some of the side effects can be pain at the site of the injection, bleeding into the muscle, and permanent discoloration at the injection site. This is why more doctors are now recommending iron infusions over the injections

Before and after the Infusion

Most people do not need to fast or stop taking their medications beforehand, and can also resume their everyday activities after an iron infusion.

If a person is taking regular iron supplements, however, a doctor will usually tell them to stop taking these about a week before the procedure. This is because the supplements may prevent the body from absorbing the iron from the infusion efficiently.

A person will need to resume iron supplements at some stage after the receiving iron infusions, t ensure levels stay where they should be. Your healthcare provider will tell you when to do this.

People who have a genetic issue called haemochromatosis should not ever have an iron infusion.

Iron infusions are now being used more and more, when iron levels are low and people are not responding to supplementation and adjustments to their diet. I recommend them to many of my patient who have low iron due to many varying reasons. Like I said said before, many of my gynaecology patients, fertility patients and pregnancy patients have very low iron levels and will actually need an infusion to get their levels up quickly.

If you are feeling tired, lethargic and may be at risk of low iron, have a talk to your healthcare provider about finding out if you are low in iron and also discuss having an iron infusion if your levels are really low. Your healthcare practitioner may not know about the new iron infusions and that they are now a great option to use and have very little side effects compared to the older methods and solutions. Some GP clinics now specialise in administering iron infusions too.

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist

-The International Baby Maker

-No Stone Left Unturned

 

Women’s Health Consultations

Women’s Health Consultations

*Are you sick of Painful Periods?
*Are you getting pain with sex?
*Is your period irregular and messing with your life?
*Are you getting bad acne?
*Are you getting increased bladder frequency?
*Are you getting some incontinence with exercise?
*Are you sick of having to put up with mood swings and hormone imbalance?
*Sick of healthcare professionals and friends telling you that your symptoms are normal?
 
Many of these issues are not normal, but more importantly many of these issues can easily be treated quite easily with the proper investigations, treatments and proper management. 
 
Everyday I see women who are sick of being ‘missed’ and ‘dismissed’ by everyone they see and they just want to get some sort of normal life back. This is where as a Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist, with over 20 years experience with fertility, pregnancy and women’s health, I can really help. My motto is “No Stone Left Unturned” and I apply this to every person I have helped.
 
I am proud to announce that I now have a better way of being able to doing consultations for anyone needing help with gynaecology, fertility and other health issues. It doesn’t matter where you live, now I can help more people from around the globe and get them the answers they should be getting. 
 
Before we only had skype, which had limitations of not being able to screen share the important information that I need to share in a consultation with patients
 
Well, now I can do consultations through Zoom and these are nearly the same as if you were with me in person and share the same information, just the same as if you were in person.
 
Reports and Treatment medicinals and supplements are then mailed to you.
 
This is for patients who live out of the Brisbane area, or are interstate and overseas and it gives so much more scope to help everyone who wants my help.
 
If you want to get the best advice, best care and see someone with over 20 years experience in helping people, who is a Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist (medical) as well as having qualifications in complementary medicine, then you need to see book in with me.
 
My multi-modality approach has helped over 12,500 plus babies into the world and helped tens of thousands of women with women’s health issues and gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, PCOS, Fibroids, Bladder & Bowel Issues, Pelvic floor stability, Thrush, Migraines, Hormone Imbalance and so much more. I can help with all Women’s Health and Reproductive issues.
 
As a Baby Maker and Women’s Health expert my motto is “No Stone Left Unturned” and I apply that to every person I help. It is because I care and want to help care for you as well.
 
If you would like to organise an online, or in-person consultation with me, please give my staff a call on +61 7 32795697, or email info@shentherapies.com.au. You can also submit an online enquiry through my website www.drandreworr.com.au too.
 
I hope to be able to help you and care for you all soon
 
Regards
Dr Andrew Orr
Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist
-No Stone Left Unturned
“The International Baby Maker & Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate”

Exciting New Online Consultations

Exciting New Online Consultations

*Are you sick of Painful Periods?
*Are you getting pain with sex?
*Is your period irregular and messing with your life?
*Are you getting bad acne?
*Are you getting increased bladder frequency?
*Are you getting some incontinence with exercise?
*Are you sick of having to put up with mood swings and hormone imbalance?
*Sick of healthcare professionals and friends telling you that your symptoms are normal?
 
Many of these issues are not normal, but more importantly many of these issues can easily be treated quite easily with the proper investigations, treatments and proper management. 
 
Everyday I see women who are sick of being ‘missed’ and ‘dismissed’ by everyone they see and they just want to get some sort of normal life back. This is where as a Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist, with over 20 years experience with fertility, pregnancy and women’s health, I can really help. My motto is “No Stone Left Unturned” and I apply this to every person I have helped.
 
I am proud to announce that I now have a better way of being able to doing consultations for anyone needing help with gynaecology, fertility and other health issues. It doesn’t matter where you live, now I can help more people from around the globe and get them the answers they should be getting. 
 
Before we only had skype, which had limitations of not being able to screen share the important information that I need to share in a consultation with patients
 
Well, now I can do consultations through Zoom and these are nearly the same as if you were with me in person and share the same information, just the same as if you were in person.
 
Reports and Treatment medicinals and supplements are then mailed to you.
 
This is for patients who live out of the Brisbane area, or are interstate and overseas and it gives so much more scope to help everyone who wants my help.
 
If you want to get the best advice, best care and see someone with over 20 years experience in helping people, who is a Reproductive Medicine and Women’s Health Specialist (medical) as well as having qualifications in complementary medicine, then you need to see book in with me.
 
My multi-modality approach has helped over 12,500 plus babies into the world and helped tens of thousands of women with women’s health issues and gynaecological conditions such as Endometriosis, Adenomyosis, PCOS, Fibroids, Bladder & Bowel Issues, Pelvic floor stability, Thrush, Migraines, Hormone Imbalance and so much more. I can help with all Women’s Health and Reproductive issues.
 
As a Baby Maker and Women’s Health expert my motto is “No Stone Left Unturned” and I apply that to every person I help. It is because I care and want to help care for you as well.
 
If you would like to organise an online, or in-person consultation with me, please give my staff a call on +61 7 32795697, or email info@shentherapies.com.au. You can also submit an online enquiry through my website www.drandreworr.com.au too.
 
I hope to be able to help you and care for you all soon
 
Regards
Dr Andrew Orr
Reproductive Medicine & Women’s Health Specialist
-No Stone Left Unturned
“The International Baby Maker & Women’s and Men’s Health Advocate”

What Affects a Menstrual Cycle – Part 2 (Common Gynaecological Factors)

uterus

There are many things that can cause disturbances to a woman’s menstrual cycle and on my previous post I discussed how Non-Gynaecological factors, such as diet, lifestyle etc, can be contributing. In this post I will discuss some of the common gynaecological conditions that can cause problems with women’s menstrual cycles.

The sad thing is that many of these are often overlooked and often masked by putting women on the contraception pill. The other issue is that many are led to believe that the pill is the answer to their issues, when sadly it isn’t.

Many of these common gynaecological conditions continue to become worse while having their symptoms masked and exacerbated by these hormones. Even more disturbing is that many women are not heard when speaking about menstrual issues, menstrual pain and other factors that do in fact interfere with their daily life on both a physical and emotional level.

Lets look at the common gynaecological factors that can affect a woman’s cycle.

  1. Endometriosis– is one of the most common causes of period pain and it caused by abnormal growth of endometrial cells both inside the uterus and outside the uterine lining. The exact cause is not known. While period pain, clotting, ovulation pain, pain with sex, pain on bowel movement, IBS like symptoms etc are commonly talked about, many women with endometriosis are asymptomatic and would not even know they had it. It is commonly missed, misdiagnosed and overlooked by healthcare practitioners and is why it often takes up to 10 years for the definitive diagnosis to be made. There is no cure and now it is thought that genetic factors and parental mode of inheritance is a predominant part of this disease. We do know that estrogens make it worse also. Endometriosis can only be diagnosed by surgical intervention. For more information please read my posts on endometriosis and also visit the Endometriosis Australia website.
  2. PCO/PCOS – Polycystic Ovaries/Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of the most common caused of menstrual cycle irregularities, or ceasing of the menstrual cycle. It is mainly caused by insulin resistance and it also runs in families. There are two types of presentation with this condition. One is just having the cysts on the ovaries and the other is just the syndrome without the cysts. These days it is common lobbed under the one condition called PCOS. Along with menstrual cycle disturbances, it can also cause mood swings, hair growth/hair loss, acne, ovulation pain, infertility, anovulation, weight gain/weight loss, pot belly, fluid retention and much more. Diet and lifestyle changes are the number one treatment for this condition. Scans can pick this condition up, but can also miss it too. It can be diagnosed via surgical intervention and sometimes-extreme forms of this do need surgical intervention known as “Ovarian Drilling”
  3. Fibroids – Also known as myomas are benign growths that can occur inside and outside the uterus. Up to 40% of women over 40 years old have fibroids. They can cause problems with irregular uterine bleeding, heavy long bleeding, bleeding in between cycles, anaemia, pain with sex, problems with urinating and back pain. They can also cause infertility and miscarriage. There are 3 types of fibroids (intramural, submucosal & subserosal). They are thought to be caused by excess estrogens and problems in hormone metabolism. They can be removed surgically and some small ones embolised.
  4. Polyps – Are benign overgrowths, or bulges, of the normal tissue lining the uterus into the uterine cavity. They can cause irregular bleeding, heavy bleeding, bleeding after intercourse and infertility. Some women have not symptoms at all. Polyps may also be found in the uterine cervix. Polyps are usually attached to the underlying tissue by a base or stalk, and they vary in size. They can basically act like an IUD and stop implantation and therefore need to be removed in order for a woman to fall pregnant. Polyps only rarely contain cancerous cells
  5. Adenomyosis– Is very similar to endometriosis by the fact that it causes pain, irregular bleeding, heavy bleeding, bloating, lower abdomen pain and can affect the day to day functioning of woman all over this world. Adenomyosis growth penetrates deeply into the uterine lining and also inflames the nerves inside the lining. It cannot be seen visually and some special high contrast scans and MRI can pick it up, but not always. Usually a biopsy is needed to diagnose it. Medically the only way to properly get rid of Adenomyosis is via a hysterectomy. In the meantime, mostly anti-inflammatories, some hormones and other forms of pain management are given to provide symptomatic relief.
  6. Thrush– Vaginal thrush is a common infection caused by an overgrowth of Candida albicans yeast. This yeast lives naturally in the bowel and in small numbers in the vagina. It is mostly harmless, but symptoms can develop if yeast numbers increase. Symptoms you may experience if you develop vaginal thrush include vaginal discomfort – itching or burning, a thick, white discharge with a ‘cottage cheese’ appearance and yeasty smell, redness or swelling of the vagina or vulva, stinging or burning while urinating or during sex, splits in the genital skin that can cause bleeding and irritation. The condition is mainly treated with antifungal creams, pessaries and probiotics.
  7. Cancers – In 2008, a total of 4,534 new gynaecological cancers were diagnosed in Australia; this equates to an average of 12 females being diagnosed with this disease every day. On average 4 females in Australia die each day from a gynaecological cancer each day. The most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancers are uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, vulval cancer, cancers of other female organ and placenta and vaginal cancer. All can cause irregular bleeding, but some may not present with any symptoms at all. Proper diagnosis and early intervention is the key to any gynaecological cancers. For more information on diagnosis, symptoms and treatment please refer to the cancer council website.

There are other conditions that I haven’t discussed because of focusing on the main gynaecological conditions that can affect a woman’s cycle. I haven’t gone into the treatments of these disease states and will go into this at a later date. What I will say it that early intervention is the key to any disease state in the body and seeing the right people is paramount too. Please know that many of these disease states will require a multimodality approach and please remember that there is always help out there. Never put up with period pain, or menstrual irregularities, or be told the symptoms many women face daily are normal. The value of a second, or third, or tenth opinion is crucial for some people to get help and to find the right person to help.

Please remember that period pain is not normal and neither are many of the menstrual irregularities that many of you face daily. There are always treatments and help out there too. I help so many women daily, with most of these sorts of conditions, and with the right treatments, diagnosis and investigations, you can be helped too.

Take care

Regards

Dr Andrew Orr

-Leaving No Stone Left Unturned

“The International Baby Maker” and “Women’s and Men’s Health Crusader”