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Lichen Planus

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space placeholder.What Is It?.
space placeholder.Symptoms.
space placeholder.Diagnosis.
space placeholder.Expected Duration.
space placeholder.Prevention.
space placeholder.Treatment.
space placeholder.When To Call a Professional.
space placeholder.Prognosis.
space placeholder.Additional Info.
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space placeholder.What Is It?
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Lichen planus is a long-lasting disease that affects about 1 out of 100 people. It causes abnormal-looking areas called lesions on the skin or the moist surfaces of the mouth, throat and vagina. Rarely, it affects the scalp and nails.

Lichen planus occurs more often in women than in men and most often in people over age 50.

No one is sure what causes lichen planus. Some people appear to have reactions to medicines. Others develop it from reactions to flavorings, such as cinnamon. In some cases, lichen planus may be linked to hepatitis C. Stress often makes the symptoms worse.

People who have lichen planus in their mouths may be more likely to develop oral cancer. They have a 1% to 2% chance of developing a type of cancer called oral squamous cell cancer. Anyone with lichen planus in his or her mouth should be examined every 6 months to 12 months due to this chance of cancer.

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space placeholder.Symptoms
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There are six types of oral lichen planus. Each is characterized by distinct lesions:
  • Papular — White dots
  • Lacey — White lines
  • Plaquey — White patches
  • Erosive — Red lesions
  • Ulcerative — Beige lesions
  • Blistering — Fluid-filled blisters

The papular, lacey and plaquey types of lichen planus tend to be painless. The other types are often painful. It is common for a person to have more than one type.

About one-third of the time, people with lichen planus in the mouth also have lichen planus on their skin. Skin lesions are flat and purplish. They have a scaly texture. The lesions can be itchy.

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space placeholder.Diagnosis
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Many other illnesses may act like lichen planus. Your doctor should do a biopsy to diagnose this condition. In a biopsy, a small piece of tissue is removed and examined in a laboratory. The doctor also may order a blood test to check for hepatitis.

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space placeholder.Expected Duration
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Many lichen planus lesions on the skin go away without treatment. This can take a few years. However, lichen planus lesions in the mouth tend to last much longer. Some also go away on their own. If lichen planus is caused by a chemical, stopping contact with that chemical may cause the lesions to heal.

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space placeholder.Prevention
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Because the exact cause of lichen planus is unknown, there is no way to prevent it.

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space placeholder.Treatment
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While there are no cures for lichen planus, many medicines can control the symptoms. The painless types of lichen planus usually do not need treatment. The other types are treated with steroids. These come as creams, gels, liquid rinses and sprays. If these medicines don't work, steroids can be injected into the lesion or taken by mouth. Other medicines that may help include retinoids (vitamin A) and some drugs that suppress the immune system.

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space placeholder.When To Call a Professional
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Call your dentist if you mouth is sore or you have any of the symptoms of lichen planus.

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space placeholder.Prognosis
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Skin lichen planus usually disappears over several years. Lichen planus in the mouth usually lasts much longer. Lichen planus in the mouth may come and go for no apparent reason. It also may show up in response to stress or new medicines.

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space placeholder.Additional Info
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American Academy of Dermatology
P.O. Box 4014
Shaumburg, IL 60168
Phone: 847-330-0230
Toll-Free: 1-866-503-SKIN (7546)

American Academy of Family Physicians
Consumer Information Site
11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
Leawood, KS 66211-2680
Toll-Free: 1-800-274-2237

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