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Lichen Planus


What is Lichen Planus?

Lichen Planus is a condition characterized by swelling and irritation in the mucous membranes of the body, as well as the skin, hair and nails. It often appears as pulish itch bumps on the skin and develops over several weeks. In areas related to the mucous membrane, lichen planus presents in the form of lacy white patches. This manageable condition is often treated at home but can require medical intervention when it becomes painful.

Signs and Symptoms of Lichen Planus

The signs and symptoms of lichen planus vary depending on where it is on the body. Signs can include:

  • Flat, purplish bumps that appear most often on the inner forearm, wrist or ankle
  • Itching
  • Blisters that erupt, then scab and crust
  • Lacy white patches
  • Painful sores in the mouth or on the vagina
  • Hair loss
  • Change to the color of the scalp
  • Nail damage or nail loss

What Causes Lichen Planus?

Lichen planus is caused by the immune system attacking the cells of the skin or mucous membranes. It is not known why the immune system behaves in this way. Lichen planus is not contagious and does not come from a lack of hygiene.

There are some known triggers of the condition, including:

  • Hepatitis C
  • Flu vaccine
  • Certain chemicals
  • OTC analgesics
  • Some medications

While it can happen to anyone, lichen planus most often appears in women during middle age.

How Lichen Planus is Treated

In many cases, lichen planus can clear up on its own. When it is present in the mucous membranes, it can be more resistant to treatment. Your doctor can advise you on home remedies as well as medical interventions, including:

  • Prescription corticosteroids
  • Oral anti-infection medication
  • Immune response medication
  • Antihistamines
  • Light therapy
  • Retinoids

If you are pregnant or nursing, your doctor may want to avoid retinoids. Whatever intervention you use should be done in careful consultation with your physician.

Related Treatments


A corticosteroid works by suppressing the activity of the immune system and reducing the production of chemicals that create inflammation. Learn More

Immune System Suppressants

An immune system suppressant, such as Imuran or CellCept, steps in to address this by suppressing the activity of the immune system and reducing the production of chemicals that create inflammation. Learn More

Light Therapy

Originally developed for Navy seals to help wounds heal quicker, light therapy has been shown to be highly therapeutic for skin. Learn More

Narrowband UVB

Narrowband UVB is a form of phototherapy widely used to treat skin diseases. Learn More

Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

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