Lichen Planus and Your Skin
Lichen planus is an inflammatory skin condition appearing as rows of itchy, flat-topped bumps (lesions) on the arms and the legs. It is a skin disease affecting middle-aged adults and it is found in mucous membranes, especially in the mouth and the genitals. It causes pain, soreness and even a burning sensation. It can also be found on the inner wrists, the ankles, the scalp and even the nails.
It is actually not an infectious disease and hardly contagious. But its persistence can last for months even reaching years. It may one day appear and disappears the next that is why treatment for the disease is difficult. Its appearance on the scalp, however, will lead to hair loss. On nails, it will make the nails brittle and even split.
Lichen planus’ presence in the mouth can lead to dry mouth, a metallic taste or blunted taste sensation, or burning sensation in the mouth. This may appear before the skin rash and may only be the evidence of the disease. The actual cause of the disease is yet unknown. It appears to be triggered by allergic reactions or immune reactions to medications or other substances. There are cases the disease is related to other infections such as hepatitis C.
If you are experiencing purple or reddish-purple flat-topped bumps on the skin, a trip to the doctor is necessary. Looking closely at these bumps, you will notice some scales or flakes on them. The doctor will then examine the bumps and may take some sample tissue of the bumps for biopsy.
Complications of lichen planus include squamous cell carcinoma which is another type of skin cancer. This is only from those with severe cases of the disease. The disease affects middle-aged women more than men with a ratio of 3:2. Children affected by the disease are only rare.
The disease actually clears within eight to 12 months without treatment. Mild symptoms may only require self-care and periodic observations by the doctor. But sometimes the disease can be treated with ointments or creams to reduce inflammation and itching. This will include steroid-sparing immune-modulating medications in ointments or creams like imiquimod (Aldara) or tacrolimus (Protopic), phototherapy with UV light, antihistamines and oral corticosteroid medications for severe cases.
For those with the disease in the mucous membrane, treatment is often challenging and can take up to years. Oral administration of corticosteroids in the addition of high-potency corticosteroids is applicable to the affected areas.
Some self-care measures can help prevent the itching and inflammation caused by lichen planus on your skin. These measures include cool compresses, use of hydrocortisone cream or ointment that at least contains 1 percent hydrocortisone, tub soaking with colloidal oatmeal such as Aveeno or other, or the use of some over-the-counter antihistamines like diphenhydramine in the form of Benadryl or other if the itching is really severe.
If symptoms do persist, consult your physician for some prescribed ointment or cream to prevent the itching and inflammation that may lead to skin cancer.