Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that can affect the skin, hair, nails and mucous membranes. On the skin, lichen planus usually appears as purplish, often itchy, flat-topped bumps, developing over several weeks. In the mouth, vagina and other areas covered by a mucous membrane, lichen planus forms lacy white patches, sometimes with painful sores.
Contributing factors to lichen planus may include:
Lichen planus occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks cells of the skin or mucous membranes. No one knows the exact cause of this abnormal immune response. The condition isn't contagious.
Lichen planus is thought to affect 1-2% of the worldwide population. It's more common in adults over the age of 40. Lichen planus of the skin affects men and women equally. However, oral lichen planus is more common in women. The mouth is affected in around 50% of all cases of lichen planus (oral lichen planus).
Some of the most common symptoms of lichen planus include the following:
The most common type of lichen planus affects the skin. Over the course of several weeks lesions appear and spread.Less commonly the lesions can occur in areas besides the skin or genitals. These may include:
Anytime you see or feel a rash on your skin or lesions in your mouth or on your genitals, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Oral lichen planus is often diagnosed by a dentist during routine dental check-ups.
Your primary care doctor or dermatologist may be able to tell that you have lichen planus simply by looking at your rash. To confirm the diagnosis, you may need further tests. Tests could include a biopsy, which means taking a small sample of your skin cells to view under a microscope, or an allergy test to find out if you are having an allergic reaction. If your doctor suspects the underlying cause is an infection, you may need to have a test for hepatitis C.
For mild cases of lichen planus, which usually clear up in weeks or months, you may not need any treatment. If the symptoms are uncomfortable or severe, your doctor can prescribe medication. Medications often prescribed include:
There are other things you can try at home to complement your prescription treatments. These include:
It can be difficult to prevent oral lichen planus, but to keep the lining of your mouth healthy it's recommended that you:
Lichen planus of the genitals
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