Introduction 

Lichen planus is a non-infectious, itchy rash that can affect many areas of the body.

Affected areas can include the:

  • arms, legs and trunk 
  • mouth (oral lichen planus)
  • nails and scalp
  • vulva, vagina and penis

Read more about the symptoms of lichen planus.

The exact cause of lichen planus is unknown. However, the condition isn't infectious and doesn't usually run in families. It can't be passed on to other people, including sexual partners.

Read more about the causes of lichen planus.

A GP can usually diagnose lichen planus by examining the rash and asking about your symptoms. Oral lichen planus is often diagnosed by a dentist during routine dental check-ups.

Read more about diagnosing lichen planus.

Who's affected by lichen planus

Lichen planus is thought to affect 1-2% of the worldwide population. It's more common in adults over the age of 40.

Lichen planus of the skin affects men and women equally. However, oral lichen planus is more common in women. The mouth is affected in around 50% of all cases of lichen planus (oral lichen planus).

Treating lichen planus

There's no single treatment that can cure lichen planus completely. However, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and make living with it easier. For example, steroid creams or ointments are often used to help relieve the itch and control the rash.

Most cases of lichen planus of the skin clear up on their own within six to nine months. The rash rarely lasts longer than 18 months. However, oral lichen planus and lichen planus that affects the genital area may be more persistent.

Read more about how lichen planus is treated.

Erosive lichen planus

Erosive lichen planus is a rare form of lichen planus that can last a long time. It causes painful ulcers to develop in the mouth and in the genital areas of both males and females.

In some cases, long-term erosive lichen planus can increase the chance of some types of cancer developing.

Read our page on complications of lichen planus for more information about erosive lichen planus.

Lichen planus of the skin usually occurs in adults over the age of 40 

Pharmacy and medicines

Using your local pharmacy's services could save you an unnecessary trip to your GP

Page last reviewed: 08/10/2014

Next review due: 08/10/2016