What Is Lichen Planus?
Lichen planus is an inflammatory disease that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy skin or mucous membrane cells. The condition causes swelling and irritation at various places on and in the body.
Lichen planus is more common among middle-aged individuals. It is unknown what causes this atypical immune response. However, it seems that the following factors can trigger the disease in those predisposed to it:
- Exposure to certain pigments, chemicals and metals
- Hepatitis C infection
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Influenza vaccinations
Symptoms differ depending on the part of the body lichen planus affects. Common symptoms include:
- Fingernail and toenail changes — Nails may split, thin, develop ridges or fall off.
- Oral health issues — Patterned white patches on the tongue and inside the cheeks are typical. Red spots and sores may develop in extreme cases.
- Painful areas on the genitals — Red, painful areas frequently occur with lichen planus.
- Scalp irritation — Irritation, redness or bumps on the scalp or hair loss may develop.
- Skin changes — Itchy, shiny red or purple bumps may appear. The skin may become scaly or show thin white lines, and when skin bumps fade, dark skin spots may appear for a few months.
Frustrating as lichen planus is, it frequently clears up without any medical intervention, although it can take as long as two years to disappear. When treatment is recommended, options include:
- Light therapy — Also known as phototherapy, light therapy with ultraviolet B rays can help heal skin-related lichen planus.
- Medication — Inflammation can be managed and symptoms minimized by using antihistamines or corticosteroid creams or ointments. Retinoids, which are often used for treating aging skin, may be prescribed as well.
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If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of lichen planus, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.
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