Lichen planus is a condition that forms an itchy rash on the skin or in the mouth.
Mouth sores are one symptom of lichen planus.
Symptoms of mouth sores:
- May be tender or painful (mild cases may not cause pain)
- Are located on the sides of the tongue, inside of the cheek, or on the gums
- Look like bluish-white spots or pimples
- Form lines in a lacy network
- Gradually increase in size
- Sometimes form painful ulcers
Skin sores are another symptom of lichen planus.
Symptoms of skin sores:
- Usually appear on the inner wrist, legs, torso, or genitals
- Are itchy
- Have even sides and sharp borders
- Occur alone or in clusters, often at the site of a skin injury
- May be covered with thin white streaks or scratch marks
- Are shiny or scaly looking
- Have a dark, reddish-purple color
- May develop blisters or ulcers
Other symptoms of lichen planus:
- Dry mouth
- Hair loss
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Ridges in the nails
Your health care provider may make the diagnosis based on the appearance of your skin or mouth lesions.
A skin lesion biopsy or biopsy of a mouth lesion can confirm the diagnosis. Blood tests may be done to rule out hepatitis.
The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and speed healing. If your symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment.
Treatments may include:
- Medicines that calm down the immune system (in severe cases)
- Lidocaine mouthwashes to numb the area and make eating more comfortable (for mouth sores)
- Topical corticosteroids or oral corticosteroids to reduce swelling and lower immune responses
- Corticosteroid shots into a sore
- Vitamin A as a cream or taken by mouth
- Other medicines that are applied to the skin
- Dressings placed over your skin with medicines to keep you from scratching
- Ultraviolet light therapy
Lichen planus is usually not harmful. Most often it gets better with treatment. The condition often clears up within 18 months, but may come and go for years.
If lichen planus is caused by a medicine you are taking, the rash should go away once you stop the medicine.