Lichen Planus

What is lichen planus? 

— Lichen planus is a condition that causes red, purple, or white spots to form on the skin. These spots often itch or hurt. Lichen planus can affect the skin anywhere on the body, including the skin in and around the vagina and penis, and the pink, moist skin that lines the mouth.

In most cases, doctors do not know what causes lichen planus.

What are the symptoms of lichen planus? 

— Lichen planus causes different symptoms, depending on which part of the body is affected.

●On the skin, it usually causes shiny, flat, red, or purple spots (picture 1). These spots tend to form on the wrists, arms, or legs, but might also show up on other areas. The spots are often very itchy. As the spots heal, they can turn dark.

●On the nails, it can cause lines or ridges to form.

●On the “mucous membranes,” the pink, moist skin that lines the inside of the mouth, the vagina, and other organs, it can cause redness, painful sores, or patterns that look like white lace. When lichen planus affects the mouth, it can make it hard to eat.

Should I see a doctor or nurse? 

— Yes, if you have symptoms like those listed above, see your doctor or nurse.

Your doctor or nurse will probably be able to tell if you have lichen planus by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam. It’s also possible your doctor or nurse will take a small sample of skin to send to the lab. This is called a skin “biopsy.”

How is lichen planus treated? 

— Treatment is different depending on which part of the body is affected and how bad the symptoms are. In general, treatment can include:

●Steroid medicines that come in ointments, creams, or gels – These steroid medicines reduce inflammation and help the skin heal. Examples include fluocinonide or clobetasol.

●Medicines called calcineurin inhibitors, such as pimecrolimus (brand name: Elidel) and tacrolimus (brand name: Protopic).

●Medicines that numb the skin and help with pain, especially for people who have sores on their mouth or sex organs.

●Pills that help to reduce inflammation and help the skin heal

●A special type of light treatment called phototherapy

Some people need to try more than one medicine before they find the medicine that works best for them.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better? 

— Yes. Here are some things you should do:

●Take good care of your skin. Wash and dry your skin gently when you take a shower or bath. Try not to scratch itchy skin because that can increase the chance of infection. Scratching can also make lichen planus worse.

●If you have lichen planus in your mouth, make sure you take good care of your teeth and gums. You should brush your teeth twice a day with a soft brush and floss every day. Not taking good care of your mouth could make lichen planus worse and might cause other problems from unhealthy teeth and gums.

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