About Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that can affect your skin and mucous membranes. On the skin, it usually appears as purplish, often itchy, flat-topped bumps. When mucous membranes are affected — such as tissues inside the mouth or vagina — lichen planus appears as lacy white patches or sores that can be painful. Lichen planus is a skin disorder and can’t be passed from one person to another. The disorder occurs when the immune system mounts an attack against cells of the skin or mucous membranes. The cause for this abnormal immune response is unknown. Mild cases of lichen planus may need relatively simple at-home treatment. When symptoms are severe, such as pain or significant itching, treatments may include drugs that suppress the immune system abnormalities. Always consult your doctor for diagnosis of your symptoms. Symptoms can persist for months. There is some evidence that lichen planus may increase the risk of certain cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma (skin cancer), oral cancer, penile carcinoma or vulvovaginal cancer, your doctor can guide you with routine screenings if necessary.

Symptoms:

  • Purplish, flat-topped bumps may appear anywhere on the body, but they are most often located on the inner forearm and near the wrists or ankles. Other common locations include the lower back, neck and legs.
  • Bumps may appear in lines along creases in the skin, in clusters, or along the site of a scratch or other injury.
  • Bumps may appear to be covered with fine, lacy white lines.
  • The affected skin is often itchy.
  • Rarely, the bumps become crusty, scabby or blistery.
  • The lesions rarely scar unless they are scratched deeply. When the lesions eventually disappear, the skin may have a dark brownish discoloration that may eventually fade away.
  • Oral lichen planus usually causes patches of lacy white lines or white dots appear most often on the inside of cheeks. The gums, lips and tongue also may be affected.
  • Sores or ulcers may also appear in the mouth. These tend to cause pain or a burning sensation.
  • Lichen planus affecting the genitals is less common in men than women. In men, the purplish skin lesions and itching most often affect the tip of the penis. In women, it can cause purplish skin lesions and itching on the external genitalia (vulva) or painful, burning sores on the mucous membrane lining the vagina. Scarring is possible, but uncommon, after the skin and mucous membranes heal. Lichen planus lesions affecting the vulva and vagina often don’t respond well to treatment and are difficult to manage. Therefore, the condition can result in significant sores or permanent changes to vulvovaginal tissues that at times may scar. Because severe itching, pain and burning sensations are common, the condition can cause painful sexual intercourse and subsequent sexual dysfunction. For supportive alternative therapies, you can check Lichen Sclerosus blogs and forums as well.
  • Lichen planus affecting the scalp is relatively rare. The lesions may result in temporary or permanent hair loss as well as scarring or discoloration of the scalp after it has healed
  • Although lichen planus rarely affects the nails, it can cause ridges running the length of the nail, thinning or splitting of the nail or even temporary or permanent nail loss

Triggers:

  • Hepatitis C infection
  • Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Certain types of flu vaccines
  • Allergy causing agents (allergens)
  • Tattoo pigments
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, others) and naproxen (Aleve, others)
  • Certain medications for heart disease, high blood pressure or arthritis