Lichenification is a state wherein your skin becomes thick and leathery, as a result of constant scratching or rubbing. Scratching an area of the skin for a prolonged period of time can cause the skin cells to grow, which then leads to the thickening of the skin and an exaggeration of normal skin markings such as wrinkles, cracks, and scales. These markings give the skin the leathery or bark-like appearance.
Lichen simplex chronicus, also known as neurodermatitis, shows a patch of skin that’s been lichentificated. Lichen simplex is not a primary condition, but it is a result of an underlying cause which is typically severe, such as chronic itching, trauma to the skin, or severe anxiety which leads to scratching or rubbing of the skin excessively.
Lichen simplex involves an extremely itchy patch of skin. The itch can be nonstop or intermittent, and the symptoms include thick leathery skin, scaly, bark-like skin, raised patches of skin that are red or dark.
The major cause of lichenification is repetitive scratching. Lichenification can get progressively worse without treatment. Another cause is rubbing of the skin. This can be due to a trauma that harshly rubbed the skin. Other conditions that lead to lichentification include atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, bug bites, dry skin, stress, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and skin trauma.
Doctors perform a physical examination to diagnose lichen simplex. If you and your doctor do not know what’s causing the lichentification or the itch, other tests such as a biopsy or a neurological exam may be necessary.
Doctors would prescribe fluticasone prorpionate, which works by treating itchiness and reducing scratching by addressing the underlying cause of the problem, such as atopic dermatitis of psoriasis. Other prescription drugs that doctors may prescribe include corticosteroid creams, corticosteroid injections directly into the affected skin, prescription-strength allergy drugs and antihistamines, and anti-anxiety medications.
There are also over-the-counter treatments, such as moisturizers, camphor and menthol topical creams. There are also other types of therapies that may be effective in resolving itching and lichentification such as light therapy, psychotherapy, acupuncture, and acupressure.
Scratching makes lichenification worse. Try these tips to lessen the itch and scratching:
- Wear hypoallergenic gloves while you sleep
- Cover the affected patches of skin with hypoallergenic bandages
- Keep your nails extra short
- Apply cool compresses
- Use fragrance-free soaps and products
- Take warm oatmeal baths
- Avoid stress