Health ConditionsLichen Planus: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prognosis

Lichen Planus: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prognosis


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Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Characterized by its distinctive appearance and varying symptoms, lichen planus can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of lichen planus, exploring its symptoms, potential causes, treatment options, and prognosis.

What it is

Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can affect various parts of the body, including the skin, mouth, nails, and hair. The condition is characterized by the development of small, itchy, purplish bumps on the skin, which may appear flattened or raised. These bumps, known as papules, often have a polygonal shape and a shiny surface. In addition to skin involvement, lichen planus can also manifest as white patches or lesions in the mouth, known as oral lichen planus, and can lead to hair loss on the scalp or other parts of the body.


The symptoms of lichen planus can vary depending on the area of the body affected. In most cases, the condition presents as itchy, purplish bumps on the skin, typically on the wrists, ankles, lower back, and genitals. These bumps may be accompanied by a reddish or brownish discoloration and can range in size from a few millimeters to centimeters. In some instances, lichen planus may cause white, lacy patches or sores in the mouth, which can be painful or cause a burning sensation. Hair loss, known as lichen planopilaris, is another possible symptom of the condition, leading to thinning or bald patches on the scalp.


The exact cause of lichen planus remains unknown, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, immune, and environmental factors. While anyone can develop lichen planus, certain factors may increase the risk of developing the condition. These include:

Stress: Psychological stress has been implicated as a potential trigger for lichen planus, although the exact mechanism is not fully understood.

Allergies: Some individuals may develop lichen planus as a result of allergic reactions to certain substances, such as medications, metals, or chemicals.

Medications: Certain medications, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), beta-blockers, and certain antibiotics, have been associated with the development of lichen planus in some individuals.

It’s important to note that while these factors may increase the risk of developing lichen planus, they do not guarantee that the condition will occur.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for lichen planus, various treatment options are available to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. The choice of treatment depends on the severity and location of the lesions, as well as individual preferences. Common treatment options for lichen planus include:

Topical Corticosteroids: Topical corticosteroids are often prescribed to reduce inflammation and itching associated with lichen planus. These medications are available in various forms, including creams, ointments, and gels, and are typically applied directly to the affected areas of the skin or mouth.

Oral Medications: In cases where topical treatments are ineffective or impractical, oral medications such as corticosteroids, retinoids, or immunosuppressants may be prescribed to help control symptoms and reduce inflammation.

Phototherapy: Phototherapy, or light therapy, involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune response. This treatment may be effective for certain types of lichen planus, particularly those involving widespread or resistant lesions.

Oral Rinses: For individuals with oral lichen planus, oral rinses or mouthwashes containing corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory agents may help reduce pain and inflammation in the mouth.

Hair Treatments: In cases of lichen planopilaris, treatments such as topical corticosteroids, minoxidil, or oral medications may be prescribed to help slow or stop hair loss and promote regrowth.

It’s important for individuals with lichen planus to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and concerns.


The prognosis for lichen planus varies depending on the severity and extent of the condition, as well as individual factors such as age, overall health, and response to treatment. In many cases, lichen planus is a self-limiting condition that may resolve on its own over time, particularly with appropriate treatment. However, some individuals may experience recurrent episodes or persistent symptoms that require ongoing management.

While lichen planus itself is not considered life-threatening, complications can arise in some cases. These may include:

Scarring: Severe or long-standing cases of lichen planus may lead to scarring, particularly if the lesions occur in areas prone to trauma or irritation, such as the legs or genitals.

Secondary Infections: Scratching or picking at lichen planus lesions can increase the risk of secondary bacterial or fungal infections, which may require additional treatment.

Oral Complications: Oral lichen planus can cause discomfort or difficulty eating, speaking, or swallowing, particularly if the lesions are extensive or painful.

Psychological Impact: The chronic nature of lichen planus, along with its visible symptoms, can have a significant psychological impact on affected individuals, leading to feelings of embarrassment, anxiety, or depression.

Overall, early diagnosis and appropriate management are key to minimizing complications and improving outcomes for individuals with lichen planus.


Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that can cause a range of symptoms, including itchy, purplish bumps on the skin, white patches in the mouth, and hair loss. While the exact cause remains unknown, factors such as stress, allergies, and certain medications may contribute to its development. Treatment options for lichen planus focus on managing symptoms and improving quality of life, and may include topical or oral medications, phototherapy, and supportive care. With proper diagnosis and treatment, most individuals with lichen planus can effectively manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.


What are the 3 types of lichen planus?

Lichen planus manifests in three main types: cutaneous, mucosal, and oral lichen planus. Cutaneous lichen planus affects the skin, while mucosal lichen planus involves mucous membranes, and oral lichen planus specifically affects the mouth.

What deficiency causes lichen planus?

There isn’t a direct link between a specific nutrient deficiency and lichen planus. However, some research suggests that deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D, may contribute to its development. Nonetheless, the exact cause of lichen planus remains unclear.

Does lichen planus spread?

Lichen planus typically doesn’t spread from person to person like an infectious disease. However, it can spread on an individual’s body, affecting different areas over time. It’s essential to manage and treat lichen planus promptly to alleviate symptoms and prevent potential complications.

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