Lichen planus is an inflammatory disease that occurs over the skin and the various mucous membranes present in different parts of the body. Lichen planus is characterized by the formation of purplish, flat-topped,itchy lumps that occur over the skin such as vagina, mouth, scalp, and other mucous membranes in the body. When lichen planus affects the soft tissues, it forms whitish sores or patches that cause pain.
Lichen planus is caused due to mistaken attack of the skin cells and the mucous membranes by the immune system. The cause for this abnormal behavior of the immune system is not known. However lichen planus is not contagious.
If lichen planus occurs ina minor form, then it needs no treatment except simple home remedies. However immunosuppressant medication becomes necessary when the pain and itching turns severe.
Symptoms of lichen planus
The signs and symptoms of lichen planus vary depending on the various body parts affected by the condition.It may be noted that the disorder rarely becomes worse after the first few months. However, the symptoms may persist for many months.
The symptoms of lichen planus as per the various body parts that are affected are listed below:
The scalp:Lichen planus of the scalp, which is also called as planopilaris, is very rare and may show the following symptoms:
- Temporary or permanent hair loss
- After the healing process is over, the scalp may elicit several scars
The skin:Some signs of lichen planus affecting the skin are listed below:
- Lichen planus may occur on any part of body and may appear as flat-topped purple lumps. However, lichen planus mostly occurs on inside forearm, wrists, or near the ankles. Sometimes it may occur on neck, lower back, and legs.
- When one looks at the lichen planus lesions, it may seem like they are covered with lacy, thin, whitish lines.
- The lichen planus bumps occur ina particular pattern such as in lines along the skin folds, in clusters, or on the scratch sites.
- Scars may develop if the affected skin is scratched severely.
- In few cases, the condition may experience crustiness, scabbiness, and blistering
- Affected skin may be also experience itchiness and pain
- After the lesions have disappeared, the affected portion may elicit a thick dark brownishpigmentation. However,it tends to vanish in due course of time.
On the genitals:Occurrence of lichen planus in men is lesser than women. The following are some of the symptoms of lichen planus on genitals:
- For men lichen planus abnormalities occur on the glens, that is the tip of the penis.
- Women may develop purple skin lesions on the external genitalia called the vulva. Such lichen planus lesions tend to be itchy.Painful and burning sores can also appear on mucous membranes present on the vaginal wall.In rare cases, scarring may develop after the healing process is over.
On the nails:Lichen planus rarely tends to affect the nails. However, when the disorder does affect the nails, then one or more nails in the toes or fingers may experience the lesions. Following are some of the difficulties experienced by the condition:
- May result in temporary or permanent loss of nail
- Nails may become thin or may get split
- The abnormal nail may form grooves which run allover the affected portion.
On the mouth:Following are some of the signs of oral lichen planus:
- The appearance of whitish blotches, lacy lines, and white dots that occur mostly on the cheek interiors. Lichen planus anomalies may also occur on gums, lips, and the tongue.
- Occurrence of sores or the ulcers in mouth due to lichen planus may result in pain and burning sensations
Causes of lichen planus
The precise cause of lichen planus is still a matter of research. It is however understood that in some persons the presence of certaindiseases or medical disorders, or some other factors,may trigger the onset of inflammatory reactions which eventually result in development of lichen planus. It is also widely understood that the white blood cellsknown as T lymphocytes, control the development of inflammation and lesions. These white blood cells are normally active at the spot of injury or disease. In the case of Lichen planus, the physicians and researchers are unaware of the reasons for the activation of T lymphocytes.
Following are the few causes which may trigger lichen planus:
- Some varieties of flu vaccines
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like naproxen and ibuprofen
- Certain drugs of arthritis, blood pressure, or cardiac disease
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Tattoo pigments
- Hepatitis C infection
- Lichen planus can affect anyone. However middle aged are commonly affected.
Treatment of lichen planus
Lichen planustend to heal on its own. When it lasts for a longer periodand causes discomfort, then it needs medication for relief and healing.
Following are the medications for lichen planus:
- Retinoid medications
- Administering of topical, oral, or intravenous corticosteroids
- Application of nonsteroidal ointments
- Application of topical antihistamines to control the pain and itching
- UVB/UVA light therapy for clearing skin lesions