Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a recurring rash of the skin and/or inside of the mouth. There is no known cause or cure, although treatment may offer some relief.

Symptoms of Lichen Planus (LP)

The symptoms of lichen planus vary depending on its location on the body.

  • Lichen Planus of the Skin: Characterized by small pink to purple bumps, that commonly appears on the wrists, lower back or ankles. Less commonly, it appears on the legs and genitals. The bumps may be itchy, rough or painful. Most cases of lichen planus involve only a few bumps, but the rash can be widespread. Small white lines known as Wickham’s striae may also appear across the bumps.
  • Oral Lichen Planus: Lichen planus can sometimes form on the inside of the cheeks, tongue, lips or gums. The tiny white dots form a lacey appearance and may lead to redness, swelling, peeling or sores.
  • Lichen Planus of the Nails: Less commonly, the condition can appear on fingernails and toenails creating ridges and leading to splitting or thinning. Nail loss may also occur.
  • Scalp: Rarely, the rash appears on the scalp. The tiny bumps can produce redness, irritation and/or hair loss.

Causes of Lichen Planus

Lichen planus affects people of all ages and races but is most common in middle-aged adults.

Although the exact cause is unknown, diuretics and malaria medications can produce a lichen planus type rash. In rare cases, metal dental fillings are the cause and some individuals with Hepatitis C also develop the disease.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Lichen Planus

A dermatologist easily recognizes most cases of lichen planus, but sometimes a biopsy is needed to confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests may also be suggested if other diseases are suspected.

There is no cure for lichen planus, but treatment options include:

  • Antihistimines: Oral antihistamines may be taken to help relieve the itch
  • Topical preparations: Corticosteroid creams and ointments may be applied to the skin to decrease inflammation or speed healing
  • Oral or systemic steroids: Systemic corticosteroids taken orally or intramuscularly may be used to help control widespread lichen planus
  • Oral Antibiotics: Certain oral antibiotics may used due to their anti-inflammatory properties to help control lichen planus
  • PUVA: An ultraviolet light therapy used to speed healing

Lichen planus of the skin usually resolves within 2 years. Oral outbreaks may persist longer.

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