Squamous cell hyperplasia, previously known as hyperplastic dystrophy or leukoplakia, is an excessive growth of normal or abnormal skin in the vulvar region. The condition is thought to be due to chronic irritation.
Symptoms of Squamous Cell Hyperplasia
Squamous cell hyperplasia symptoms include itching and burning of the vulva, which result in a vicious cycle of scratching or rubbing that causes the itch to intensify. As this pattern continues, the skin becomes excoriated, or worn down. Discomfort and inflammation are common, and thick, irregular patches of gray or white skin develop. In patients where the cycle persists, squamous cell hyperplasia may spreads to the inner thighs.
The lesions contain an abundance of keratin, a protein commonly found in hair and nails, which produces the gray/white color typical in squamous cell hyperplasia. The vulva often appears pink or red in color with the thick white keratin patches acting as an overlay. Some lesions may also have deep pigmentation and few to no blood vessels.
Diagnosing Squamous Cell Hyperplasia
The condition is almost always benign and the risk of developing invasive cancer due to squamous cell hyperplasia is rare. Since squamous cell hyperplasia is similar to other nonmalignant vulvar conditions, your OBGYN may suggest a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment of Squamous Cell Hyperplasia
Relieving the itch associated with squamous cell hyperplasia is the first aim of treatment. Topical steroid creams and ointments applied twice daily are often beneficial. In most cases, a mild to moderate strength steroid preparation is effective, but if the condition is severe or a large area is involved, a more potent steroid may be needed for a short time. Since some patients experience rebound effects with the stronger steroids, close monitoring is required.
In addition, oral tranquilizers may be prescribed at bedtime for patients who experience intense itching that is disruptive to sleep. Once the itch is controlled, it is important to try to identify the irritant behind symptoms to prevent future recurrence.