Lichen planus: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

Lichen planus

Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects both the skin and mucous membranes. It is characterized by the formation of itchy, flat-topped, purplish bumps or lesions on the skin. These lesions can appear anywhere on the body, but they commonly occur on the wrists, ankles, lower back, and inside the mouth. Although the exact cause of lichen planus is unknown, it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the skin or mucous membranes. Certain factors such as viral infections, stress, certain medications, and allergens may trigger or exacerbate lichen planus. The symptoms of lichen planus can vary from person to person. In addition to the characteristic bumps or lesions, individuals with lichen planus may experience itching, pain, and changes in nail appearance. In some cases, oral lichen planus can cause discomfort and difficulty eating or speaking. While there is no cure for lichen planus, treatment aims to relieve symptoms and manage flare-ups. Topical corticosteroids are commonly prescribed to reduce inflammation and itchiness. In more severe cases or when oral involvement occurs, systemic medications may be recommended. Individuals with suspected lichen planus need to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and management. Dermatologists or oral medicine specialists are typically involved in diagnosing and treating this condition.

Symptoms of Lichen planus

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Lichen Planus, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.


Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding the causes of this condition is crucial in finding effective treatment and management strategies. While the exact cause of lichen planus remains unknown, researchers have identified several potential factors that may contribute to its development. One possible cause is an abnormal immune response, where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells, leading to inflammation and other symptoms. Certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), beta-blockers, and certain antibiotics, have also been linked to lichen planus. It is believed that these medications may trigger an immune response or disrupt the normal functioning of skin cells. In addition to immune system abnormalities and medication use, other factors such as viral infections (including hepatitis C), genetic predisposition, and environmental triggers have been suggested as possible causes of lichen planus. However, more research is needed to fully understand the role these factors play in the development of this condition.

Risk Factors

Understanding the risk factors associated with lichen planus is crucial for early detection and prevention of this dermatological condition. While the exact cause of lichen planus remains unknown, several factors have been identified that may increase an individual's susceptibility to developing this condition. One significant risk factor is genetic predisposition. Studies have shown that certain genes may play a role in determining who is more likely to develop lichen planus. Individuals with a family history of the condition are at a higher risk compared to those without such a history. Another important risk factor is certain medical conditions or diseases. Lichen planus has been found to be associated with various systemic conditions, including hepatitis C infection, diabetes mellitus, and autoimmune disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. It is believed that these underlying health conditions can trigger or exacerbate lichen planus symptoms. Additionally, certain medications have been linked to an increased risk of developing lichen planus. Drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), beta-blockers, and some antimalarial medications have been reported to potentially induce or worsen lichen planus in susceptible individuals. Also, lifestyle factors may also contribute to the development of lichen planus. High levels of stress and anxiety have been associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing flare-ups or worsening symptoms of this condition.


Lichen planus is a skin condition that can cause discomfort and frustration for those affected by it. Understanding the symptoms of lichen planus is crucial in order to seek proper diagnosis and treatment. One of the most common symptoms of lichen planus is the appearance of flat-topped, purplish or reddish bumps on the skin. These bumps may be accompanied by itching, which can range from mild to severe. In some cases, these bumps may also develop into open sores or ulcers. Another symptom of lichen planus is the presence of white, lacy patterns known as Wickham's striae on the affected areas. These patterns can be seen on the surface of the skin and may appear in areas such as the mouth, genitals, scalp, or nails. In addition to these visible symptoms, lichen planus can also cause discomfort in other ways. Some individuals may experience a burning sensation or pain in the affected areas. This can make daily activities such as eating or brushing teeth challenging and uncomfortable. It's important to note that symptoms may vary from person to person and can range in severity. If you suspect you may have lichen planus based on these symptoms, it is recommended to consult with a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options.


Diagnosing lichen planus can be a complex process, as it requires careful examination and consideration of various factors. However, with advancements in medical technology and expertise, healthcare professionals are now equipped with effective diagnostic tools and techniques to accurately identify this condition. One of the primary methods used for diagnosing lichen planus is a thorough physical examination of the affected areas. The characteristic appearance of lichen planus lesions, such as flat-topped papules or plaques with a purplish color, can often provide valuable clues for diagnosis. In addition to the physical examination, doctors may also perform a biopsy to confirm the presence of lichen planus. During this procedure, a small sample of tissue is taken from an affected area and examined under a microscope. This allows healthcare professionals to observe the distinct histopathological features associated with lichen planus, such as hyperkeratosis, saw-tooth rete ridges, and lymphocytic infiltrate. Also, certain laboratory tests may be conducted to rule out other possible conditions or determine any underlying factors contributing to lichen planus. These tests may include blood tests to assess liver function or screen for autoimmune disorders that can sometimes be associated with lichen planus.


When it comes to the treatment of lichen planus, there are several options available that can help manage and alleviate the symptoms. It is important to note that treatment approaches may vary depending on the severity and location of the condition. One commonly prescribed treatment for lichen planus is topical corticosteroids. These medications are applied directly to the affected areas and work by reducing inflammation and itching. They can be in the form of creams, ointments, or gels. In more severe cases or when topical treatments do not provide adequate relief, oral corticosteroids may be prescribed. These medications are taken orally and work throughout the body to reduce inflammation. Other treatment options include immunosuppressant drugs, which help suppress an overactive immune response, as well as retinoids, which are derived from vitamin A and can help control cell growth. In addition to medication-based treatments, there are also various self-care measures that individuals with lichen planus can take to manage their symptoms. This may include avoiding triggers such as certain foods or substances that worsen symptoms, practicing good oral hygiene if the condition affects the mouth, and using gentle skincare products to avoid further irritation.

Preventive Measures

Prevention plays a crucial role in managing lichen planus, a chronic inflammatory skin condition. By adopting certain preventive measures, individuals can potentially reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups, as well as alleviate discomfort associated with this condition. One of the key preventive strategies for lichen planus is maintaining good oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent oral lichen planus, a variant that affects the mouth. Additionally, avoiding irritants such as spicy or acidic foods and alcohol-based mouthwashes may also contribute to preventing oral lesions. In terms of skin involvement, it is important to protect the skin from excessive sun exposure by using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing. Furthermore, avoiding known triggers such as certain medications, allergens, or stressors can also aid in preventing flare-ups. While there is no guaranteed way to completely prevent lichen planus from occurring or recurring, these preventive measures can certainly make a difference in managing the condition effectively.

Do's & Don’t's

Do's Don't
Keep the affected area clean and dry. Avoid scratching or picking at the lesions as it can worsen the condition and lead to scarring.
Use mild, fragrance-free soaps and moisturizers. Avoid using harsh or scented skincare products that may irritate the skin.
Apply prescribed topical corticosteroids or antihistamines as directed by your healthcare provider. Don't self-diagnose or self-medicate without consulting a healthcare professional.
Practice good oral hygiene and use alcohol-free mouthwashes. Avoid spicy, acidic, or rough-textured foods that may aggravate oral lesions.
Protect your skin from excessive sun exposure by wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen. Don't ignore any changes or worsening symptoms; seek medical advice promptly.
Manage stress through relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Avoid excessive stress as it can exacerbate symptoms.
Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water daily. Don't consume alcohol or tobacco products as they can worsen the condition.
Follow up regularly with your healthcare provider for monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan. Avoid tight-fitting clothing that may rub against or irritate the affected areas.

If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing Lichen Planus, it is crucial to seek immediate medical attention by calling emergency services or consult with a Dermatologist.

Frequently Asked Questions
Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects the skin, mucous membranes, hair, and nails. It is characterized by the appearance of itchy, flat-topped bumps or lesions that can be purple or reddish in color.
The exact cause of lichen planus is still unknown. However, it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the skin or mucous membranes.
Lichen planus can affect people of all ages and genders but most commonly occurs in middle-aged adults. Certain factors such as genetics, viral infections (such as hepatitis C), certain medications, and stress may increase the risk of developing this condition.
No, lichen planus is not contagious. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another through direct contact or other means.
The most common symptoms include itchy papules or lesions on the skin that may be shiny and have a polygonal shape. These may occur on various parts of the body including wrists, ankles, lower back, genitals or inside the mouth.
Diagnosing lichen planus usually involves a physical examination by a healthcare professional who will assess your symptoms and medical history. In some cases, a biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
While there is no known cure for lichen planus, the condition can be managed and treated to alleviate symptoms. Treatment options may include topical corticosteroids, oral medications, antihistamines, and other therapies aimed at reducing inflammation and itching.
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