I have a friend, and reader of my site, that contacted me on Facebook to tell me about a skin disorder that he has and also one that his mother had when she was living. I love when people give me suggestions to write about something, particularly when I have never heard of the disorder! In fact, I wish I had more comments, suggestions and subscribers to my site so that they could receive updates and daily posts that I share via email. The site is meant to be helpful to friends, colleagues, students, moms, patients AND the general public, so please let me know things that you want to hear about. That being said, have you heard of lichen planus? If not, you are not alone!
Lichen planus is an uncommon inflammatory disease that affects the skin and the mucous membranes. It appears as a rash or bumps on the skin. It is neither infectious nor contagious, and there is no evidence that it is related to any form of skin cancer. This is not a hereditary disease, though some members of the same family can get it. Lichen planus can appear anywhere on the body, but is most often found on the inside or tender part of the wrists and ankles. Sometimes it will appear on the lower back, neck and genital area. In more rare instances, it will appear on the tongue, on the gums, in the hair and on the fingernails. Lichen planus produces bumps that are relatively flat and red or reddish-purple in color, except when it appears on the shins. In these instances, it usually appears as a thick patch rather than the typical small bumps. Lichen planus in the mouth shows up as white lines with dots on the cheeks. Although lichen planus can be unsightly, it rarely poses a medical problem and usually causes minimal symptoms; severe itching is what causes the most discomfort.
Lichen planus affects about one percent of adults; both men and women are affected equally. An initial attack may last for weeks to months, and about 20 percent of sufferers can expect this skin disease to come and go for years. In most cases, however, lichen planus will go away within a couple of years. When lichen planus heals, it often leaves a dark brown discoloration of the skin. Sometimes the skin will return to its original color after a period of time. The overall cause of lichen planus is unknown. However, it has been found in what appears to be an allergic reaction to some medications, dyes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Symptoms are increased with emotional stress, possibly because of changes in the immune system during stress. It may also be associated with other disorders, most notably hepatitis C. It does not appear to be related to nutrition. However, spicy foods, citrus juices, tomato products, caffeinated drinks and crispy foods seem to aggravate the disease and slow healing.
Lichen planus is an obstinate skin disorder has baffled not only the patients but also the practitioners equally. The cases of lichen planus have been observed all over the world, irrespective of the race, skin color and culture. The medical field today finds little help for this chronic disease. Although there is no known cure for lichen planus, there is treatment to address the inflammation and itching and also to lighten the color of the bumps themselves. Most doctors will recommend or prescribe one or a combination of antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, topical retinoic acid cream, dressings to protect the skin from scratching and ultraviolet light therapy. With the exception of chronic mouth ulcers that could develop into oral cancer, lichen planus will usually subside on its own. If symptoms persist or the skin lesions become especially bothersome, medical attention should be considered.