Lichen planus

Lichen planus is an uncommon, recurrent skin condition that causes itchy, shiny reddish purple spots on the skin; gray-white spots in the mouth; glassy bright red spots on the vulva (the area around the vagina); and small patchy areas of hair loss (atrophic cicatricial alopecia).

The symptoms of lichen planus may begin abruptly or gradually. The initial occurrence may persist for weeks or months, and recurrences can continue over many years.

Lichen planus is not contagious. Although its exact cause is not known, it appears more often during stress, fatigue, or exposure to medications or chemicals. It affects women more often than men.

Treatment of lichen planus focuses on relieving itching, such as with medicated creams. Severe cases may require prescription medicines taken by mouth or light treatment.

Last Updated: September 26, 2008

Author: Eileen Ellig

Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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