Understanding Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a long-term (chronic) skin disease. It’s a rash that can develop anywhere on the body. But it most often erupts on the wrists, arms, legs, scalp, and genitals. It may also appear on the nails and in the mouth. Peoples ages 30 to 60 are more likely to get it.

How to say it

LY-ken play-nuhs

What causes lichen planus?

The cause of lichen planus is often not known. But metals such as gold, and certain medicines may trigger it. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines and penicillin. Some research suggests the disease may also be linked to hepatitis C.

Symptoms of lichen planus

Lichen planus causes flat-topped bumps or patches to form on the skin. These bumps may hurt and be very itchy. They are usually shiny and violet in color. But they may be dark red or purple. They may also have fine white lines on them. In the mouth, the condition may look like patches of white lace.

Treatment for lichen planus

Lichen planus often goes away within a few years. It may do so without treatment. But to speed up healing, treatment options include:

  • Steroids. These medicines can be put directly onto the skin or injected into the affected area. They can also be taken by mouth.

  • Other medicines. Your healthcare provider may give you other medicines, such as an antihistamine or retinoid, to ease itching and pain. Anti-itch creams or ointments may also work. Your provider might also prescribe other medicines that suppress the immune system.

  • Phototherapy. This treatment directs ultraviolet light on the skin to help clear it.

Self-care tips for lichen planus

  • Don’t scratch any affected areas.

  • Use mild soap and moisturizing lotion after bathing.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed

  • New symptoms

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse

  • Ulcers in the mouth