UK What is Lichen Planus?

LP of the skin: Lichen planus has shiny flat-topped bumps of different sizes, purple in colour and often crossed with white lines called Wickham’s striae.  They are usually found on the inner wrists, forearms and ankles, but can affect any part of the skin. LP may be very itchy. New lesions appear while others are clearing.  Occasionally the skin discolours after the lesion has cleared and this can remain for some time. This form of LP often clears on its own.

Oral LP: In almost half of the cases of LP, the mouth is involved, and is often the only area to be affected.  LP in the mouth may appear as white or red patches, white streaks, ulcers or painful red gums. It may not cause any symptoms or only be sore occasionally. Some spicy, acidic foods or hard foods may make the soreness worse. After appearing it is often present for life.

Vulval/vaginal LP: Although it is possible to have painless white streaks as the only feature in the vulva/vagina, erosive lichen planus is more common.  Erosive LP can affect the vulva, the inner lips (labia minora), the entrance to the vagina and also deep inside the vagina. The affected areas are very sore and red. If the outer layers of the skin break down, these areas appear as moist and red (erosions). Sometimes there is a sticky yellow discharge occasionally streaked with blood.  The inner lips can fuse

causing scarring and sometimes the vagina can close over. Rarely, the skin may have thickened warty areas. Sex can be extremely painful or impossible resulting in emotional issues as well as physical ones.  There is a small increased risk of vulval cancer.

Penile LP: Shiny flat-topped bumps are common on the penis and usually occur around the tip (glans). Sometimes the bumps can form rings.  The erosive form of lichen planus is less common in men but may occur. This may increase the risk of penile cancer.

Other areas affected: Lichen planus may occasionally involve the nail, hair and scalp or the skin around the anus (back passage). Very rarely, it may involve the oesophagus or tear ducts. Some medications can trigger a lichen planus- like rash.

What it isn’t:

Lichen planus is NOT caused by something you did or didn’t do, it is NOT a sexually transmitted disease and it is NOT infectious.

NOTE: UK Lichen Planus does not offer medical advice or treatment recommendations.  We do however, recommend that you work with your medical professional to find your optimum treatment plan.

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