Lichenification Definition : It is a skin ailment that ensues in retort to extreme itching or rubbing of the skin, resulting in thick, leathery patches of skin. This happens because the external layer of skin naturally solidifies with the further irritation, and it often happens in cycle with eczema or other skin disorders.
Excessive itching or scratching of the skin leads to skin disorders one of which is termed as Lichenification. It starts in counter reaction to extreme itching or rubbing of the skin, resulting in the formation of thick, leathery patches of skin. Sometime, the skin becomes shiny and starts oozing, whereas in some cases, it becomes dry and flaky. It mostly arises in areas of chronic irritation and is common in patients with skin disorders like eczema. Though is it not termed as a dangerous medical condition, it can cause severe pain and irritation. It further grows if you keep scratching or fiddling with the affected area. It does not affect any particular age group or gender and can happen to anyone.
The thickening of the skin is caused by deposits of dead skin cells that get stuck to the skin’s surface as a direct response of the body to excessive itching. Sometimes cracks which resemble a tree’s bark can form in the skin and the patches that form are usually five to six centimeters in length.
What Are The Common Areas That Are Affected By Lichenification?
Calf, elbow, the nape of the neck, scalp, inner thighs, ankles and genital areas are the common areas that are affected by Lichenification. Excessive itching in these areas can lead to the appearances of thick patches of dead skin cells.
Causes Of Lichenification
There are only a few main causes of Lichenification as stated below:
It may arise from normal looking skin through lichen simplex chronicus, a skin disorder which is found in people with a form of atopic dermatitis which is already present somewhere else in the body.
Lichenification may occur as a reason of an already underlying skin condition like eczema.
It is common is patients with allergies and auto-immune disorders.
It can simply arise as a result of excessive scratching or rubbing of pimples, herpes, dry spots and cuts or burns.
Lichenification often forms an itch-scratch cycle which is the main cause of misery. A person first scratches the skin excessively as a result of itching which leads to Lichenification and the patches formed by Lichenification further itch and cause pain. Breaking this cycle is often the key to the problem but it is not easy to figure out how.
Below are the symptoms of Lichenification that can be found in almost all the patients suffering from this skin disorder:
Shiny or extremely flaky skin :- In some cases of Lichenification, the skin can become shiny and ooze, whereas in cases it can become extremely dry and flaky due to dehydration of the skin.
Leathery texture of the skin :- Your skin may acquire a gristly appearance that does not go even after treatment.
Darkening of the skin around the patches :- The skin around the leathery patches that form often becomes darker than other areas of the body. This darkening is even more apparent in people with a dark skin tone.
Intense itching at night time :- People with Lichenification feel an intense urge of itching, especially during the night time.
Extreme itching even after patches are formed :- It is not just the initial stage where itching can be felt, even after the Lichenification patches form, itching can increase.
Fiery sensation :- The burning sensation that comes along with itching is very difficult to tolerate. It feels like the skin is on fire.
Redness and Inflammation :- The initial stage can come with red rashes and inflammation of the skin before the leathery patches begin to form.
When To Seek Medical Care?
If there is no end to your itching or development of abrasions on the body, then you must rush to a doctor. Also, if there are any signs of infection like pus, fever, pain or redness, then immediate medical intervention is required.
The first and foremost aim of the treatment is to break the monotonous itch- scratch cycle and give the patient a sigh of relief. If not treated on time, Lichenification can lead to permanent damage of the skin. The course of treatment may include the following:
Medication that include steroids and oral anti-histamines to help the boy cope up with pain and reduce its inflammatory response
Aggressive moisturizing techniques to keep the skin hydrated at all times. Dry skin leads to itching.
Corticosteroid creams or ointments
Injections into the lesions for timely repair of the skin
Ultraviolet light therapy
Sedative or anti-depressants for people suffering with stress caused due to Lichenification itching and pain.
A course of oral antibiotics if there is any sign of infection
Your dermatologist might also bandage the affected area to protect it from further itching and scratching
What Are The Self Care Guidelines For Lichenifcaiton?
For patients who deal with Lichenification, day to day life is a big struggle and one must know how to cope up with it. Treatment can help you solve your problem to a certain extent but ultimately, you are your own saviour. You can follow the self-care tips below to help yourself during the course of your treatment:
Avoid scratching :- This is indeed, the most important action that you need to take. The more you scratch, the worse it will get. Try covering the affected area at night so that you do not scratch while sleeping.
Use moisturizers :- To keep your skin hydrated, it’s important that you pick the right moisturizers. Look for an oil based moisturizer or cream which are anytime better than watery skin lotions. Apply moisturizers as soon as you step out of the bathroom after a relaxing bath and avoid letting your skin become dry. Dry skin is a killer when it comes to Lichenification.
Use anti-fungal creams :- It is important that you occasionally use anti-fungal creams to avoid any fungal infection on the affected area.
Apply antibiotic creams on cracks and cuts :- Cuts and cracks can provide as easy entrance to bacteria and lead to severe infection of the affected skin patch. To avoid this, apply anti-bacterial creams prescribed by your doctor and keep the patch covered and as clean as possible.
Browse through the pictures below to understand how Lichenification patches look like.