Lichen planus is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition that results in thickened patches of skin. Lichen planus comes in several forms, but comes under the umbrella of the skin conditions known as lichenoid conditions.
Lichenoid conditions affect about one in every hundred people globally, with the group most affected being those over the age of 40. Half of those with oral lichen planus and about 10 per cent have lichen planus of the nails. Lesions appear on the skin or mucosal surfaces, and often cause an intense itch. (Read more about solving itching here.)
Many cases of lichen planus clear up by themselves after some time (maybe years), but some lichenoid conditions can last for decades. Spontaneous recovery is entirely possible, but unpredictable. Scarring is long-lasting, and can include complete balding of the scalp.
What we know about lichen planus:
- Inflammatory cells attack an unknown protein in the skin and mucosa (like the mouth)
- Genes may play a role in susceptibility
- It can be brought on by physical or emotional stress
- It can be brought on by skin injury, like a scratch (called an isomorphic response)
- Viral infections may trigger an attack
- Contact allergic dermatitis may cause some attacks in some people
- Some medications, metals or quinine may cause a lichenoid rash
Treatment of lichen planus
Lichen planus may not require treatment, but topical or systemic treatments may be required. We use:
- Topical steroids or steroid injections into the lesions
- Special creams containing prescription-only substances
- Systemic (blood) injections of prescription-only medications
- New technology and light-based treatments
The treatment that is right for your individual manifestation of a lichenoid condition will be for you to discuss with your dermatologist. Having a proper diagnosis is the first place to start, then trialling treatments that work for you.
Start treating your lichen planus with a specialist dermatologist.