Lichen Planus

What is Lichen Planus?

Lichen Planus is a skin rash that is triggered by the immune system. The condition may be uncomfortable but it isn’t thought to be dangerous and is not contagious. Generally the condition tends to clear up by itself within several weeks or months.

Possible causes of Lichen planus may include genetics, stress, viral infections, and allergens. In some cases Lichen planus occurs along with autoimmune disorders. The skin form of Lichen planus occurs in women and men equally but women are two times as likely to develop the oral form of Lichen planus. The condition is rarely seen in children and older adults and occurs most often among middle-aged people.

What are the Symptoms of Lichen Planus?

People who develop Lichen Planus usually experience Purplish-colored lesions or bumps with flat tops on your skin or genitals, thin white lines over the rash, lesions that develop and spread over the body during weeks or a few months, itching at the site of the rash, lacy white lesions in the mouth which might cause a burning sensation or pain, blisters that burst and become scabby, hair loss, dry mouth, metallic taste in the mouth, and ridges in the nails.

Lichen Planus Causes

Lichen planus is an abnormal immune system response in which the body attacks mucous membranes and skin cells. Research still hasn’t discovered why this happens in certain people, but we do know that the condition is not contagious. The most common incidents that may trigger the onset of lichen planus are Hepatitis C infections, administration of a flu vaccine, exposure to chemicals and metals, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and medications commonly prescribed to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, or arthritis.

There are no restrictions or risk factors that would make certain individuals more susceptible to contracting lichen planus than others. Middle-aged adults do more commonly develop the condition than other age groups, but that’s not to say children, teens, or seniors can’t also contract lichen planus. There’s a small risk that lichen planus can lead to the development of squamous cell carcinoma, a rare form of skin cancer, but a routine screening can identify this early enough for treatment.

How is Lichen Planus Treated?

Mild cases of Lichen planus don’t need any treatment and clear up in a matter of weeks or months.

While there is no cure for Lichen planus medications that treat the symptoms are very helpful and may include retinoids, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, antihistamines, topical nonsteroidal creams to suppress the immune system and help clear up the rash, and treatment involving ultraviolet light.

Lichen Planus Prevention

The prevention of lichen planus is impossible, until the direct causes can be identified. Even after the initial outbreak of the condition, treatment may not be necessary, because the symptoms often withdraw in a few months just as suddenly as they appeared. In cases where lichen planus lasts longer, therapy is needed to heal the skin lesions.

Corticosteroids are often prescribed for patients to reduce inflammation and itching. In cream or ointment form, the drug is applied directly to the affected area of the skin, though they may also be administered as a pill or capsule to be taken orally. Additionally, nonsteroidal creams and ointments, antihistamines, phototherapy, and ultraviolet light therapy can also reduce symptoms and outbreaks of lichen planus. Where exposure to allergens has produced the flare up of lichen planus, the elimination of those allergens may have a prompt affect on the symptoms.

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Last Reviewed:
October 06, 2016
Last Updated:
March 12, 2018