Vulval conditions: the ‘lichens’

When women present with chronic vulval symptoms, consider one of the conditions belonging to this family

This article examines a number of the ‘lichens’ that affect the vulva and vagina.


Most of us will have seen lichen growing on rocks and trees.

Perhaps the most recognisable form is the crustose form, in which the lichen is slightly raised from the base on which it is growing and spreads in an irregular pattern across its surface. 

The early dermatologists often used descriptive terms such as “lichenified” when attempting to categorise skin conditions, despite the fact that the aetiology of such conditions might be unrelated.