Doctors raise awareness for Lichen Sclerosus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Doctors at the University of Kansas Hospital are trying to raise attention to a disease that they say affects one in 30 women. However, they say many are too embarrassed to talk about what is happening to their bodies.

The disease Lichen Sclerosus is an autoimmune disease that attacks the genitals.

People diagnosed with the disease often experience itching, tearing, color changes in skin, thinning of skin and shrinking of parts of their genitals.

Often, women are misdiagnosed with chronic yeast infections or urinary tract infections.

Deenise Thorsen said that's what happened to her before she was diagnosed in 2010.

"It was very frustrating because I knew something was going on. I kept asking my sisters. Nobody knew. Nobody had these symptoms and I didn't know where to turn," Thorsen said.

She eventually found out about the disease through an internet search.

Dr. Danielle Staeker, a gynecologist with KU Hospital, treats women with Lichen Sclerosus at the Center for Pelvic Pain and Sexual Health.

Staeker said the body produces antibodies which attack the skin around the genitals.

"It can start at any age but predominantly in the 30s to 40s with burning pain. Then they flare and then go into remission," Staecker said.

She said women with chronic yeast infections should ask their doctors about the disease.

KU Hospital's Center for Pelvic Pain and Sexual Health will host a forum on September 12, 2013, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Fabia Brankenbury, an international advocate for Lichen Sclerosus, will be on hand to talk about the disease.

To RSVP, contact KU Hospital at OBGYN@kumc.edu.

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