Lichen planus 

Introduction 

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

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.

Page last reviewed: 08/10/2014

Next review due: 08/10/2016

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Comments

The 4 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

GeoffPortAdelaide said on 11 July 2013

I live in Australia, and have just been diagnosed with oral lichen planus.
I appreciate what has been posted already, and feel there doesn't seem any specific treatment .... more like try this it could help.
I have been on the same blood pressure medication for many years and have recently been taking an anti cholesterol medication.
I have a slightly under active thyroid and am taking some medication for this also.
As far as the medications go I am prepared to try different ones, changing one by one to see if there are any changes.
At present I am trying a paste which helps, but cannot be used on a long term basis as it does something to the membrane.
Any other feedback would be of help thankyou

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anxious anne said on 15 February 2013

I have Oral Lichen Planus diagnosed by biopsy. In the past 6 months my symptoms have got alot worse and I have lost a lot of taste sensation. Does anyone know if it will come back? my consultant did not have a cue.

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subscriber said on 25 November 2012

I recently had a biopsy and have oral lichen planus. It seems likely to me that it was associated with dental treatment ( I had some bridge- work done shortly before the symptoms were first noticed). I drink hot water instead of tea or coffee and the water started tasting 'funny' but no-one else seemed to taste what I was experiencing. I began to feel a dryness in my mouth and then a soreness in my upper and lower inner lip areas.The dentist was no help, (unsurprisingly.) The doctor did not seem too interested,but at my insistence sent me to an oral surgeon who performed the biopsy. The suggestion is that I change medication that I have had for years for blood pressure, in case it was a belated reaction to that. I am reluctant to do this as many have difficulty in finding one that is satisfactroy to start with. A steroid gel has been prescribed but I am cautious about using this also, since they say there is no cure, only 'relief '
I agree that there does not seem to be enough focus on finding a cause, as that would seem the logical way to finding a cure.

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BG13 said on 03 October 2012

I have Oral Lichen Planus and have just had a biopsy. I have been prescribed Betnesol as a mouthwash, after initially warm saltwater washes.
However, in everything I have read, only the symptons are addressed by the medical profession. Why is there no attempt to find out what is actually causing the disease, as I have recently read that it can be made worse by a gluten intolerance. Food intolerances also play a part and I believe that we already have too many chemicals in food without being prescribed them!

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