Lichen Planus Skin Disease

by Garreth Myers

Lichen planus is an autoimmune disease. It can occur on the skin or inside the mouth, and nobody knows why it occurs. Another problem of a similar name, called lichen simplex, causes thickened skin on the body caused due to scratching. Lichen planus, however, does not cause any thickening of the skin, and instead causes lesions. In this article, we will discuss the different problems caused by lichen planus when it occurs on the skin.

Causes: Lichen planus is thought to be an autoimmune reaction that is triggered by an allergy. This has, however, not been proved, and the exact causes are really not known. It is thought that exposure to chemicals is the trigger, but these are only considered risk factors and not causative ones. So far, it is believed to be an auto-immune response.

Some of the risks include:
  • Hepatitis C infection
  • Exposure to chemicals such as dyes, and even medication like antibiotics and diuretics.
  • Exposure to other substances such as gold, arsenic, iodides, chloroquine, quinacrine, quinide, etc.
There may be other risk factors, but not much study has gone into the causes of lichen planus.

Symptoms: Some of the symptoms associated with lichen planus when it occurs on the skin are as follows.
  • A dark colored, reddish purple blister on the skin.
  • This can develop into ulcers or blisters slowly.
  • They usually appear on the tender portions of the skin such as the skin on the inside of the wrist, genitals, the inner portion of the knees and elbows, ankles, and even on scalp.
  • Sometimes, the nails can form ridges and cause abnormalities in nails.
  • These lesions can either be single or form clusters called papules.
  • Whether found single or as a papule, they will have a definite edge to the lesion.
  • They are usually symmetrical in that they are even on both sides.
  • They can be shiny or scaly in appearance.
  • They will usually have fine white streaks that look very similar to scratch marks.
  • The lesions are usually very itchy.
  • All these can be accompanied by a metallic taste in the mouth and hair loss.
Treatment: Treatment for lichen planus on skin is usually similar to its treatment when it occurs in the mouth. Except for a few differences such as the kind of topical creams used, most other forms of treatment are the same. This is because lichen planus, wherever it appears, is thought to be an autoimmune reaction that is triggered by an allergy. Of course, removing the allergy causing agent is the first line of treatment.

Other forms of treatment include the following:
  • Antihistamine medication to reduce the inflammation. They also help with the itchy feeling.
  • Corticosteroids can be applied topically or can even be injected directly into the lesion. These corticosteroids reduce inflammation and also reduce itching, although they do not directly contribute towards curing the disease.
  • Retinoic creams (creams that contain vitamin A) are applied topically. These creams nourish the skin and also prevent itching, keeping the infected area cool dry.
  • Some immune suppressing medication can also be taken internally to help the body recover from the disease.
  • Ultraviolet light is also considered good and helps the body recover from the illness.
  • A dressing is usually placed over the affected area to prevent the person from scratching the lesion and breaking it. It is believed that scratching the lesion will make it spread to other areas too.
Cure: Although the causes for lichen planus on the skin are really not known, it is believed that it is not a serious problem and will cure itself over time. Medication may or may not help with the actual cure, and many medications only help with the itching. However, when lichen planus occurs inside the mouth, it can be a cause for concern. Although it is not a very serious problem, there is always the possibility that it can turn into mouth cancer if left untreated.

Many times the lichen planus takes more than 18 months to cure, and even this is not considered a problem. It is only when there is a periodic recurrence of the problem that one has to be careful and make sure that any and all lesions are carefully watched. The prognosis for this skin disease is therefore very good, and most people who have lichen planus of the skin do not have anything to fear. In fact, the itching in the lesions is usually more of a problem than anything else. Getting treatment to prevent the itching and reduce the swelling will go a long way towards curing the disease quickly.

If the case is a mild one and you have not scratched the lesion, it very often goes away by itself, even without any treatment. It is best to consult a doctor for confirmed diagnosis and expert opinion.

References
  1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000867.htm
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17054768

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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