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Lichen planus

Lichen planus is a condition that forms a very itchy rash on the skin or in the mouth.

Images

Lichen planus - close-up
Lichen nitidus on the abdomen
Lichen planus on the arm
Lichen planus on the hands
Lichen planus on the oral mucosa
Lichen striatus - close-up
Lichen striatus on the leg
Lichen striatus - close-up

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Causes

The exact cause of lichen planus is unknown. It may be related to an allergic or immune reaction.

Risks for the condition include:

Lichen planus mostly affects middle-aged adults. It is less common in children.

Symptoms

Mouth sores are one symptom of lichen planus. They:

Skin sores are another symptom of lichen planus. They:

Other symptoms of lichen planus are:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider may make the diagnosis based on the appearance of your skin or mouth lesions.

A skin lesion biopsy or biopsy of a mouth lesion can confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and speed healing. If your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment.

Treatments may include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Lichen planus is usually not harmful. Most often, it gets better with treatment. The condition often clears up within 18 months, but may come and go for years.

If lichen planus is caused by a medicine you are taking, the rash should go away once you stop the medicine.

Possible Complications

Mouth ulcers that are present for a long time may develop into oral cancer.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

Related Information

Rashes
Rheumatoid arthritis
Mouth ulcers
Oral cancer

References

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Lichen planus and related conditions. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 12.

Patterson JW. An approach to the interpretation of skin biopsies. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 2.

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Review Date: 11/10/2020  

Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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