Lichen planus - Overview

What is Lichen planus?

Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition that can affect the skin, mouth and genitals. Rows or clusters of dark, flat-topped skin lesions are typical of this condition. Being one of the chronic skin conditions, it tends to last for years in most cases.


An inflammatory disease that affects almost 0.5 to 2 % of the world population, Lichen planus is an auto-immune condition that tends to run a chronic course. It presents with dark, raised lesions which are flat-topped mostly affecting the skin, but also involving the oral cavity and genitals in many cases.

Lichen planus is neither infectious nor contagious in nature. Apart from being chronic, the disease has periods of remissions (when the symptoms disappear or reduce in intensity) and relapses (when the disease symptoms increase in intensity). Hence, patient compliance to conventional treatment is poor at times.


Causes of Lichen planus.

What exactly causes Lichen planus has not been clearly understood till date but various theories have existed as to what can trigger this condition in some people and not in others. Some of the commonly cited reasons include:

  • >Certain cases have been linked to infections such as hepatitis C
  • >Quite a few drugs such as those containing arsenic, bismuth, gold can cause a reaction like the rash of lichen planus
  • >Chemicals such as those used in the development of color photographs can also produce a similar rash.
  • >Stress - Intense and prolonged emotional stress such as sadness, anxiety, etc. can trigger an abnormal functioning of the immune system that can lead to Lichen planus.
  • >Amalgam dental fillings may trigger allergic reactions giving rise to oral lesions of lichen planus
  • >Genetic cause or An allergic or immune reaction to a medication or other substance has been strongly advocated as the cause for this condition. It's considered to be an auto-immune disease in which the body's protective cells attack the body's own tissues mistaking them to be foreign in nature.
  • >Long-term use of drugs like quinacrine or quinidine (anti-malarial drug) may produce hypertrophic lichen planus. Some other drugs that can trigger these kind of lesions include NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), certain antibiotics (Dapsone, Penicillamine, Tetracycline, Sulfonamide), medicines to treat high blood pressure (Captopril, Propranolol, Methyldopa, Enalapril), Furosemide, Allopurinol, etc.

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