What is Lichen Planus: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Lichen planus is a type of chronic skin disease that usually occurs on the skin and sometimes in the mucosal layer such as the oral and genital area mucosa. Lichen planus, which usually manifests itself with itchy, red or purple lesions, is a common health problem that can occur at any age, although it is most commonly seen in the 30-60 age group. Lichen planus is not a contagious disease. However, some studies show that infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C may be effective in the emergence of lichen planus. Questions about lichen planus such as “What is lichen planus, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment methods” are included in the rest of the article. Lichen planus, which constitutes approximately 1% of dermatological health problems, is an inflammatory skin disease that can be seen widely in society at all ages and genders. Lichen planus, which is generally characterized by violet-purple colored lesions on the wrists, back, arms, feet and inside the mouth, is a skin disease accompanied by redness and itching.
What are the symptoms of Lichen Planus?
Red and purple lesions on the skin, in the mouth or in the genital area are among the main symptoms of lichen planus. However, lichen planus symptoms may vary from person to person. The main lichen planus symptoms can be listed as follows:
- Small blisters of 3-5 mm in size, with a smooth surface, shiny, purple or pink color on the skin and genital area,
- Lesions that usually start in a small area of the body and spread to other areas of the body over time,
- Mostly symmetrically located lesions,
- Itchy blisters that usually appear in areas such as wrists, lower back, and ankles,
- White, often painful lesions inside the mouth,
- In some cases, lesions burst and crust over,
In addition to the above, web-like white lines on the lesions are among the main symptoms of lichen planus.
What Causes Lichen Planus?
Lichen planus is a skin disease that occurs when the immune system attacks the skin or mucosal layer as a result of a mistake. However, scientists state that lichen planus is not an autoimmune disease. Although the cause of lichen planus is not known exactly, it can be said that genetic predisposition plays a role in the development of lichen planus. Approximately 1-2% of patients may have a family history of lichen planus. The main causes of lichen planus are as follows:
- Genetic factors: Genetic predisposition is one of the important factors in the emergence of lichen planus. Research shows that certain inherited immune system cells can cause lichen planus.
- Viral infectious diseases: A study conducted in 2021 shows Hepatitis C virus as one of the most important causes of lichen planus. Accordingly, the rate of Hepatitis C infection is approximately 5 times higher in lichen planus patients compared to the rest of the population.
- Allergic reaction: Some studies show that metals such as gold, copper and fillings used in dental treatment may have an effect on the appearance of lichen planus lesions in the mouth.
- Some medications used: The use of some medications with diuretic properties used to lower high blood pressure may cause lichen planus.
How is Lichen Planus Diagnosed?
To diagnose lichen planus, a dermatologist who specializes in the field first evaluates the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Then he examines the lesions with a physical examination. If the doctor deems it necessary, some tests may be performed on the patient. The main diagnostic methods used in the diagnosis process are as follows:
- Biopsy: The majority of lichen planus patients are concerned about the disease turning into skin cancer. Although lichen planus is not related to cancer, specialist doctors may request that lesions be examined in a laboratory environment, if necessary, to eliminate the possibility of cancer.
- Allergy test: Since lichen planus may occur due to some allergens, doctors may use various allergy tests to confirm the diagnosis.
- Infection screening tests: Since lichen planus may be caused by infectious diseases, doctors can use blood tests to investigate the presence of viruses such as Hepatitis C during the diagnosis process of lichen planus.
What are the Lichen Planus Treatment Methods?
Today, there is no definitive treatment for lichen planus, but most of the time the symptoms improve on their own within a few months or a few years. However, in some cases, symptoms can be itchy and uncomfortable, so some treatment methods can help relieve symptoms such as itching and make the patient feel more comfortable. These methods can be listed as follows:
- anti-allergy medications that can help relieve itching,
- Creams that help relieve lesions such as redness and swelling,
- Some immunosuppressive drugs prescribed by the doctor,
- Medicines that help the body produce more collagen and blood vessels, such as retinoids, prescribed by a doctor
In addition to the above, phototherapy using ultraviolet rays is also widely used in the treatment of lichen planus today. In the treatment of lichen planus with phototherapy, ultraviolet rays are applied to the lesions two or three times a week for several weeks. In addition to these treatment methods, which should be applied by a specialist in the field, some methods that can be applied at home in lichen planus patients can also help relieve symptoms. Here are some suggestions that may help relieve symptoms in people with lichen planus:
- Taking a warm shower may help relieve symptoms.
- Applying a soft, damp cloth to the lesions may reduce the itching sensation.
- Scratching the lesions may worsen symptoms. For this reason, it is recommended to be careful not to scratch as much as possible.
- Since stress can have a negative effect on lichen planus symptoms, it may be beneficial to keep stress under control and, if possible, to do relaxing activities.
- In some cases, lichen planus can be detected during a routine oral and dental examination. Having regular oral and dental examinations can help in early diagnosis, and regular oral and dental cleaning can also help prevent lichen planus before it occurs.
In addition, some foods, drinks and medications can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, avoiding environmental factors that trigger lichen planus may also help relieve symptoms.
How Should a Lichen Planus Patient Eat?
In patients with lichen planus, changes in eating habits can help manage symptoms. Lichen planus is a skin disease that occurs as a result of immune system cells attacking the skin and mucosa for any reason. For this reason, it is recommended that lichen planus patients include vegetables and fruits in their diet that can help strengthen the immune system. Additionally, drinking water regularly can help relieve symptoms such as mouth pain, as well as facilitate the elimination of toxins from the body. In addition, lichen planus patients should take care to consume more foods rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidants, which may help strengthen the immune system and therefore relieve symptoms.
What Should Lichen Planus Patients Not Consume?
One of the causes of lichen planus disease is an allergic reaction to some foods. Therefore, it is important for patients to have information about the foods that trigger symptoms. For this reason, specialist doctors may perform allergy tests on the patient during the diagnosis phase to identify allergens that may cause lichen planus. In addition, since foods such as hot peppers, tomato paste, tomatoes and citrus fruits may cause exacerbation of lichen planus symptoms, it may be beneficial for patients to stay away from such foods.
Although lichen planus is a skin disease that usually heals on its own, lesions that appear especially in the mouth and genital area can be painful and uncomfortable. Therefore, if you notice red-purple, smooth lesions, do not forget to make an appointment with a specialist doctor and have the necessary check-ups.