What is lichen planus ?


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Know the basics

What is lichen planus ?

Lichen planus is a chronic condition that affects the skin and the lining of the mouth. It is usually temporary, lasting 10 years, on average, and most often affects adults between the ages of 30 and 60.

On the skin, lichen planus appears as clusters of small, itchy, red-purple, flat-topped bumps, usually on the forearms and thighs. In the mouth (also known as oral lichen planus) it has two basic forms:

  • Reticular lichen planus comes from the lace-like pattern of fine white lines that appear on the inside of the cheeks, gums, and tongue. Usually, this form of lichen planus does not require treatment. It is asymptomatic, and does not hurt.
  • Erosive lichen planus causes sores, or erosions to form on the lining of the mouth. Like the reticular form, these sores form on the cheeks, tongue and gums. Erosive lichen planus usually requires treatment. Your doctor may prescribe a powerful topical anti-inflammatory drug to help with the pain.

How common is lichen planus ?

Lichen planus is extremely common. It commonly affects more females than males. It can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of lichen planus ?

Signs and symptoms of oral lichen planus affect the mucous membranes of the mouth.

Appearance. The lesions may appear as:

  • Lacy, white, raised patches of tissues;
  • Red, swollen, tender patches of tissues;
  • Open sores;

Location. These lesions may appear on the:

  • Inside of the cheeks, the most common location;
  • Gums;
  • Tongue;
  • Inner tissues of the lips;
  • Palate;

Pain or discomfort

The red, inflamed lesions and open sores of oral lichen planus can cause a burning sensation or pain. The white, lacy patches may not cause discomfort when they appear on the inside of the cheeks but may be painful when they involve the tongue.

Other signs or symptoms. Other signs or symptoms may include:

  • Change in taste or a blunted taste sensation if the tongue is affected;
  • Sensitivity to hot or spicy foods;
  • Bleeding and irritation with tooth brushing;
  • Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis);

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

See your doctor or dentist if you:

  • Notice sores inside your mouth that don’t heal;
  • Have white or red patches in your mouth;
  • Have mouth pain;
  • Have repeated bleeding in your mouth when brushing or flossing;
  • Notice any change in the way your mouth looks and feels;
  • Have lesions or sores on your skin, genitals, scalp or nails;
  • Develop unexplained scarring of the transparent membrane (conjunctiva) that covers the white part of your eyeball;
  • Develop ear canal inflammation (otitis) that does not respond to treatment or does not have an apparent diagnosis or cause.

Know the causes

What causes lichen planus ?

The exact cause of lichen planus is unknown. The immune cells, which normally protect us by destroying bacteria or viruses, start attacking the skin or the lining of the mouth.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for lichen planus ?

There are many risk factors for lichen planus. Some of them are:

  • Bad oral hygiene;
  • Smoking;
  • Drinking alcohol;
  • Viral disease like hepatitis C;
  • Exposure to certain chemicals that act as allergens;
  • Family history of having lichen planus.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is lichen planus diagnosed?

Lichen planus is diagnosed through the symptoms that you have to suffer. Other important tests can help you to confirm the diagnosis, such as:

  • Biopsy;
  • Allergic test;
  • Test for hepatitis C, if needed.

How is lichen planus treated?

In almost cases, lichen planus does not not need any treatment.

In case of having uncomfortable or severe symtomps, your doctor can prescribe medications, including:

  • Retinoids taken topically or orally;
  • Corticosteroids taken topically, orally, injectedly;
  • Antihistamines;
  • Nonsteroidal creams taken topically.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage lichen planus ?

It can be difficult to prevent oral lichen planus, but to keep the lining of your mouth healthy it’s recommended that you:

  • Stop smoking(if you smoke)
  • Avoid drinking large amounts ofalcohol
  • Have ahealthy, balanced diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables

You should also maintain good oral hygiene by cleaning your teeth at least twice a day, and having regular dental check-ups, so that any problems with your teeth or mouth can be identified and treated early.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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