Lichen planus (LIE-kun PLAY-nus) is a common skin condition that can cause swelling and irritation in the skin, hair, nails and mucous membranes. On the skin, lichen planus usually appears as purplish, itchy, flat bumps that develop over several weeks. In the mouth, vagina and other areas covered by a mucous membrane, lichen planus forms lacy white patches, sometimes with painful sores.

Lichen planus is not contagious. You cannot get this disease from someone else, and you cannot give it to anyone.

Most people can manage typical, mild cases of lichen planus at home, without medical care. It often goes away on its own. If the condition causes pain or significant itching, you may need prescription drugs. Treatment for the skin may include:

  • Antihistamines: Pills that help alleviate itching.
  • Topical (applied to the skin) corticosteroid: Cream or ointment to reduce swelling and redness.
  • Corticosteroid: Pills (such as prednisone) or shots can help when lichen planus lasts a long time or a patient has many bumps or painful sores.
  • PUVA therapy: A type of light treatment that can help clear the skin.
  • Retinoic acid: Applied to the skin or given as a pill to clear the skin.
  • Tacrolimus ointment or pimecrolimus cream: Used to treat another skin problem, eczema.

Many cases of skin lichen planus go away within 2 years. About 1 in 5 people will have a second outbreak. In some people, the skin problem may come and go for years.

Call Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center at 330-425-7600 if tiny bumps or a rash-like condition appears on your skin for no apparent reason, such as a known allergic reaction or contact with poison ivy. Dr. Monique S. Cohn can provide an accurate diagnosis because a number of skin and mucosal conditions can cause lesions and discomfort.