Lichen planus, what is

Lichen planus is an inflammatory skin disease that sometimes involves the mucosa. It is not considered a venereal disease.

What is lichen planus?

Lichen planus is an inflammatory skin disease that sometimes involves the mucosa. It is not considered a venereal disease. In most cases, the exact cause of the disease is unknown. It is most commonly seen in the adult population.

It is equally frequent among men and women. In rare cases, certain types of medicine are the cause of the disease, at other times it is caused by underlying hepatitis C.

What are the symptoms?

When localized in the skin, small, itchy, angular purple-red elements located at the wrists, shins, lower back, feet and hands.

In the mucosa, 30-70% of patients develop white, streaks in a lacy or net-like pattern. Occasionally superficial wounds may be formed. Sometimes, the mucosal changes are the only sign of the disease.

Affecting women, the changes might be seen on the external genital area, giving rise to: pain, stinging, itching and burning sensations, painful intercourse and changes in discharge that might be purulent or even bloody. Over time, a narrowing of the vaginal entrance may be formed.

Affecting men, small, purple-red elements can be seen on the foreskin or the head of the penis, often arranged in the shape of a ring. How is lichen planus diagnosed? It is often necessary to perform a biopsy.

What is the treatment?

The symptoms can be alleviated by topical treatment with cream, sometimes tablets.

Topical treatment

steroid cream, for example Dermovate, daily for 4-6 weeks, followed by 2-3 times per week. If this proves inefficient, Protopic or Elidel cream may be prescribed.

Tablet treatment 

If topical treatment is inefficient, the doctor might prescribe methotrexate or
other immunosuppressive tablets.

Follow up

Lichen planus will gradually diminish in 1-2 years, but the mucosal changes may endure for a longer period. In these cases, follow up is recommended on a yearly basis, as there is a small risk that the cellular changes may predispose
mucosal cancer.

Opening hours

See the opening hours of the clinic at www.bispebjerghospital.dk

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