Lichen planus is a condition that results in a rash on the skin. The cause of lichen planus is unknown, but it may be caused by an infection, autoimmune disorder, or reaction to a medicine. Symptoms of lichen planus include a purple or red rash on the arms, legs, trunk, and face. Lichen planus can also affect the mouth and scalp. Treatment for lichen planus includes creams and ointments to treat the rash, and medications to decrease inflammation. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove lesions from the skin.
What is lichen planus?
Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that results in the formation of small, raised bumps on the skin. These bumps are often itchy and may be painful. Lichen planus can affect any area of the body but is most commonly found on the arms, legs, back, and scalp.
Causes of lichen planus
The cause of lichen planus is not known, but it is thought to be an autoimmune reaction. Autoimmune reactions occur when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. In the case of lichen planus, it is thought that the body's immune system attacks the skin and mucous membranes.
Lichen planus can be triggered by:
Certain medications, such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and antimalarial drugs.
Hepatitis C infection.
Exposure to chemicals, such as dyes and glues.
Certain infections, such as the Epstein-Barr virus.
Symptoms of lichen planus.
The symptoms of lichen planus can vary from person to person. They can range from mild to severe and may come and go.
The most common symptoms are:
- Burning sensation.
- Rashes or bumps on the skin that are often purple.
- Thinning of the hair.
- Changes in the nails, such as pitting, ridges, or crumbling of the nails.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis. Lichen planus can sometimes be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can resemble other conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema.
Treatment for lichen planus
There is no cure for lichen planus, but there are treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms. These include:
- Topical corticosteroids: these are applied to the skin and can help to reduce inflammation and itching.
- Topical immunomodulators: these are medications that change the way the immune system works. They can be used to treat inflammatory conditions, such as lichen planus.
- Phototherapy: this is a treatment that uses ultraviolet light to help reduce inflammation.
- Oral corticosteroids: these are taken by mouth and can be used for short periods to help control severe symptoms.
- Surgery: in some cases, surgery may be needed to remove lesions from the skin.
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If you have lichen planus, it is important to see your doctor or dermatologist for treatment. Left untreated, lichen planus can lead to permanent scarring.
Complications of lichen planus
Lichen planus can lead to several complications, including:
- Skin cancer. Lichen planus increases the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.
- Scarring. Lichen planus can cause permanent scarring, especially on the genitals and inside the mouth.
- Nail damage. Lichen planus can cause the nails to become thin, pitted or ridged. In severe cases, the nails may fall off.
- Hair loss. Lichen planus can cause patchy hair loss on the scalp, eyebrows or eyelashes.
If you have lichen planus, it's important to see your doctor for regular checkups and to monitor for any complications. Early treatment of lichen planus can help to prevent serious complications from developing.
Prevention of lichen planus
There is no known way to prevent lichen planus. However, avoiding triggers such as certain medications or infections may help lessen the chance of developing the condition. People with lichen planus should also avoid scratching or rubbing the affected areas to prevent further irritation.
If you have lichen planus, be sure to follow your doctor's instructions and take any prescribed medications as directed. In some cases, topical corticosteroids or other treatments may be needed to help manage symptoms and speed healing. With proper care, most people with lichen planus can enjoy relief from their symptoms and prevent the condition from recurring.
Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the skin, nails, and mucous membranes. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is thought to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. Lichen planus can occur at any age, but it is most common in adults between the ages of 30 and 60 years. The condition is more common in women than men.