Lichen planus : Causes, symptoms and treatments


Lichen planus is a chronic skin condition that appears as a rash. It occurs due to the inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes and is accompanied by small, flat topped, polygonal bumps. These bumps can grow in clusters and develop into rough, scaly plaques on the skin, thus causing serious skin conditions.


Lichen planus usually comes with the following symptoms

  • Appearance of purple colored lesions or bumps on the skin
  • Rapidly spreading lesion within just a few weeks
  • Appearance of rashes accompanied by constant itchiness
  • White lesion around the mouth which gives a burning sensation and are painful to touch
  • White lining over the rashes, especially in the mouth and the genitals

Lichen planus commonly affects the skin, however, in some cases, they can also spread to the genitals, mucous membranes, nails and the scalp. They take around 16 months to completely clear off.


Lichen planus is not caused due to any external conditions or bacterial and viral infections. It occurs when the body attacks the skin and mucous membranes by mistake. It is not very clear as to why this happens but there are certain factors that are likely to trigger the development of this skin condition.

Although it can occur in males and females, females are more likely to develop the skin condition in the oral form. Although it can affect people of any age, it is very rare among the children and middle aged people and more common among the middle aged people. Other risk factors for lichen planus include the occurrence of the skin condition in the blood line, viral diseases like hepatitis C and exposure to certain chemicals and allergens such as antibiotics, arsenic, gold, iodide compounds, diuretics and certain chemical dyes.


Lichen planus treatment can be difficult especially if they occur in the vulva in the vagina. The affected person may experience a lot of pain and get bad scarring after the condition has subsided. It can even lead to sexual dysfunction if the treatment goes wrong. Lichen planus also increase the risk for a certain type of skin cancer known as the squamous cell carcinoma. Due to this very reason, doctors recommend frequent screening of the tissues from the affected area. After the rashes have completely cleared off, the affected skin may stay darker than the surrounding area.


Since lichen planus is caused due a faulty feedback mechanism in the body, there is no permanent cure for the condition. However, there are several treatments for the relief and speed healing. The common medications used during the treatment includes

  • Antihistamines to provide relief from itchiness
  • Topical corticosteroids to contain and cure the swelling and redness
  • Corticosteroid pills for patients who have had the skin condition for a long period of time
  • PUVA therapy, a form of light therapy to clear the skin
  • Retinoic acid to clear the skin
  • Tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream especially if lichen planus occurs along with other skin conditions such as eczema

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