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Lichen Planus – Causes, Treatment And Risks

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In this day and age, it has become fairly difficult to maintain a perfect skin which is not marred in some form or the other. Lichen planus is one such skin condition which forms as a skin rash and may deform further. Thus, it is extremely important to be well-informed about the causes, symptoms and treatments of such skin diseases.

What Is Lichen Planus?

The name ‘Lichen Planus’ may sound ominous, but rest assured, it is not as scary as it sounds! Lichen planus is basically a skin rash and a chronic inflammatory disorder, which affects the skin and mucous membranes. In a majority of the cases, lichen planus is not a serious condition; however, there are few cases wherein, this skin condition can turn painful and serious. Appearance-wise, they are small and flat with pink or purple polygonal bumps which can turn to scaly plaques, which are rough in texture.

The general consensus of skin specialists is that lichen planus is an autoimmune disease and people over the age of 30 are prone to developing this skin condition.

Also Read: Consult The Best Dermatologist To Know About Lichen Planus

What Are The Causes Of Lichen Planus?

There is no exact cause of this skin rash, but some of the possible causes of lichen planus include:

  • Viral Infections – Sometimes our viruses attack our skin or the mucous membrane cells for reasons unknown. This causes lichen planus.
  • Allergens – There are certain chemicals which act as allergens; such as gold, iodide compounds, antibiotics, arsenic, diuretics, different types of dyes, etc. When an individual who is allergic to these chemicals, or compounds, gets exposed to them, they might develop lichen planus.
  • Medications – Lichen planus might occur as a side effect of certain medications such as anti-malarial ones, thiazide diuretics, phenothiazines, beta-blockers, gold injections used in arthritis treatment, anti-inflammatory medications, etc.
    Apart from the above-mentioned lichen planus causes, reaction to chemicals used in colour photography development and mercury tooth fillings can also cause lichen planus.

Also Read: What Is Patch Testing For Allergies?

Types Of Lichen Planus

  • Lichen Planus Hypertrophicus – Usually appears on the ankles.
  • Lichen Nitidus – Appears mostly on the body parts which are exposed to the light.
  • Lichen Sclerosus et Atrophics – Lichen planus which affects the male genitals.
  • Lichen Planus Linearis – Appears commonly in children and extends along the complete limb.
  • Lichen Planus Annularis – Affects the scrotum and genitals
  • Lichen Planus Follicularis (Lichen Planopilaris) – Appears on the body parts, where you have hair, such as your scalp, pubic areas, etc.

Some of the other common body parts where lichen planus can develop include:

  • Oral region – Oral lichen planus is a chronic skin problem which affects the mucous membranes of our mouths. They are usually swollen, tender patches which appear red or lacy white in colour. You will find lichen planus developing on the insides of your cheeks, tongue, gum, palate or inner tissue of your lips.
  • Ears – One of the causes of loss of hearing is considered to be lichen planus within the ears.
  • There are few rare lichen planus as well, which affect your nails, scalp, oesophagus or eyes.

Common Symptoms Of Lichen Planus

  • Bumps or lesions which appear on the surface of your skin or other body parts. They are purple or red in colour and the tops of the bumps are flat.
  • One of the most common symptoms of lichen planus is that once they appear on your skin, they will spread out over your body over a period of several weeks or couple of months.
  • Blisters which burst and become scaly in texture.
  • Constant itching around the area where the rashes have developed.
  • Rashes might have thin white lines going over them.
  • Oral lichen planus will have lacy white bumps inside the mouth which are painful.
  • Dry mouth and sore mouth ulcers.

Also Read: Treatment For Bumps On Face

How Does Lichen Planus Spread?

Once you develop lichen planus, there are possibilities of it spreading to your other body parts. However, if you are worried that it may spread to another individual, then you can relax as this skin condition is not a contagious one.

Difference Between Lichen Planus And Other Skin Conditions

  • Lichen Planus vs. Psoriasis – Both lichen planus and psoriasis are skin conditions which might appear as rashes, but there are few differences between the two. Psoriasis is a lifelong condition which is genetic in nature whereas lichen planus is an inflammatory condition which might disappear after two years.
  • Lichen Planus vs. Lichen Sclerosus – Just like lichen planus, lichen sclerosus is also a form of skin condition which involves rashes, itching, pain, burning sensation, etc. The main difference between these two skin conditions is that lichen sclerosus usually occurs on the female genital parts, while lichen planus can occur on different body parts. Also, you will need to get a biopsy done to confirm if it is lichen sclerosus.

Lichen Planus Treatment

The lichen planus treatment depends upon the severity of the condition. In mild and moderate cases, you will generally not require any kind of treatment. But if you are facing extreme condition, then the below treatments are good options:

  • Light therapy or phototherapy – It is a popular lichen planus treatment, which uses Ultra Violet light to treat the rashes. The light emitted penetrates the epidermis which is the uppermost layer of the skin.
  • Corticosteroids – The most common suggested treatment for lichen planus is corticosteroids, which can be used in the form of creams or ointments. Depending on the severity of your lichen planus, your dermatologist might also prescribe a pill or a corticosteroids injection. This helps in reducing the inflammation.
  • Topical application or oral intake of a retinoid – Retinoid are versions of Vitamin A. You might observe some minor side effects of using this treatment such as peeling of skin, irritation and redness as well as skin dryness. Consult your Dermatologist before proceeding with these
  • Oral or topical usage of antihistamines – If allergens are the cause of your rashes, then this is the ideal treatment. It helps in providing relief from the pain and itchiness.
  • Oral medication, gels, nonsteroidal creams or ointments – It can help in modifying or suppressing the immune response of your body which will aid in quicker clearing of the rashes.Always ensure that you talk to your Dermatologist and get their expert opinion before choosing any of the above discussed treatments. Also, remember that there is no permanent cure for lichen planus. These methods will help you in treating the symptoms, which can be an indicator for any other underlying issues.

Risks Associated With Lichen Planus

Though lichen planus can affect people of different age and gender, it is commonly seen in people, who are in their middle ages. People suffering from hepatitis C, cirrhosis or liver diseases might also end up with lichen planus. Some of the other risks of developing lichen planus are that you will notice the affected area on the skin having permanent marks in brown or grey colour, once the rashes have disappeared.
A major risk which might occur in very rare cases is that the chronic lichen planus might increase your chances of developing cancer by a small percentage.


  • Is lichen planus contagious?

No, lichen planus is not contagious and hence, cannot spread from one person to another.

  • Is it possible to prevent lichen planus?

Without having clarity on the exact cause, it is difficult to prevent the occurrence of lichen planus. So visit your Dermatologist for thorough diagnosis.

  • What is the long-term prognosis of lichen planus?

The long-term prognosis of lichen planus is that that it goes away on its own over a period of time.

Lichen Planus is not a serious condition in majority of cases. Mostly it heals away on its own. But you must consult your Dermatologist, if you notice that your condition is serious and is becoming worse day by day.

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About The Author

Kushneet Kukreja

Kushneet Kukreja

A postgraduate in Biotechnology from Kingston University and an ISSA Certified Specialist in Fitness & Nutrition, Kushneet Kukreja is a passionate writer who works in close association with the dermatologists at our head office to generate valuable and scientifically accurate content for our blog.

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