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Lichen planus
Classification and external resources

Lichen planus affecting the lower lip.
ICD-10 L43.
ICD-9 697.0
DiseasesDB 7452
eMedicine derm/233 derm/663
MeSH D008010

Lichen planus is a chronic mucocutaneous disease that affects the skin and the oral mucosa, and presents itself in the form of papules,[1] lesions or rashes. Lichen planus doesn't involve lichens; the name refers to the appearance of affected skin.

Contents

Classification

Lichen planus may be divided into the following types:[2]:466

  • Configuration
  • Morphology of lesion
  • Site of involvement
  • Special forms

Cause

The cause of lichen planus is not known. It is not contagious[3] and does not involve any known pathogen. Some lichen planus-type rashes (known as lichenoid reactions) occur as allergic reactions to medications for high blood pressure, heart disease and arthritis. These lichenoid reactions are referred to as lichenoid mucositis (of the mucosa) or dermatitis (of the skin). Lichen planus has been reported as a complication of chronic hepatitis C virus infection and can be a sign of chronic graft-versus-host disease of the skin. It has been suggested that true lichen planus may respond to stress, where lesions may present on the mucosa or skin during times of stress in those with the disease. Lichen planus affects women more than men (at a ratio of 3:2), and occurs most often in middle-aged adults. Lichen planus in children is rare. In unpublished clinical observation, lichen planus appears to be associated with hypothyroidism in 3 young females.

Allergic reactions to amalgam fillings may contribute to the oral lesions very similar to lichen planus, and a systematic review found that many of the lesions resolved after the fillings were replaced.[4]

Presentation

The typical rash of lichen planus is well-described by the "4 P's": well-defined pruritic, planar, purple, polygonal papules. The commonly affected sites are near the wrist and the ankle. The rash tends to heal with prominent blue-black or brownish discoloration that persists for a long time. Besides the typical lesions, many morphological varieties of the rash may occur. The presence of cutaneous lesions is not constant and may wax and wane over time. Oral lesions tend to last far longer than cutaneous lichen planus lesions.

Oral lichen planus (OLP) may present in one of three forms.

  • The reticular form is the most common presentation and manifests as white lacy streaks on the mucosa (known as Wickham's striae) or as smaller papules (small raised area). The lesions tend to be bilateral and are asymptomatic. The lacy streaks may also be seen on other parts of the mouth, including the gingiva (gums), the tongue, palate and lips.
  • The bullous form presents as fluid-filled vesicles which project from the surface.
  • The erosive form presents with erythematous (red) areas that are ulcerated and uncomfortable. The erosion of the thin epithelium may occur in multiple areas of the mouth, or in one area, such as the gums, where they resemble desquamative gingivitis. Wickham's striae may also be seen near these ulcerated areas. This form may undergo malignant transformation.

The microscopic appearance of lichen planus is pathognomonic for the condition

  • Hyperparakeratosis with thickening of the granular cell layer
  • Development of a "saw-tooth" appearance of the rete pegs
  • Degeneration of the basal cell layer
  • Infiltration of inflammatory cells into the subepithelial layer of connective tissue

Lichen planus may also affect the genital mucosa - vulvovaginal-gingival lichen planus. It can resemble other skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Rarely, lichen planus shows esophageal involvement, where it can present with erosive esophagitis and stricturing. It has also been hypothesized that it is a precursor to squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus.

Clinical experience suggests that Lichen planus of the skin alone is easier to treat as compared to one which is associated with oral and genital lesions.

Treatment

Care of OLP is within the scope of Oral medicine speciality. Currently there is no cure for lichen planus but there are certain types of medicines used to reduce the effects of the inflammation. Lichen planus may go into a dormant state after treatment. There are also reports that lichen planus can flare up years after it is considered cured.

Medicines used to treat lichen planus include:

Non-drug treatments:

  • UVB NarrowBand Phototherapy[6]

References

  1. ^ lichen planus at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ Freedberg, et. al. (2003). Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. (6th ed.). McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0071380760.
  3. ^ Penn State College of Medicine - Lichen Planus
  4. ^ Issa Y, Brunton PA, Glenny AM, Duxbury AJ (November 2004). "Healing of oral lichenoid lesions after replacing amalgam restorations: a systematic review". Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 98 (5): 553–65. doi:10.1016/S1079210404000216. PMID 15529127. http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1079210404000216.  
  5. ^ Choonhakarn C, Busaracome P, Sripanidkulchai B, Sarakarn P (March 2008). "The efficacy of aloe vera gel in the treatment of oral lichen planus: a randomized controlled trial". Br. J. Dermatol. 158 (3): 573–7. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2007.08370.x. PMID 18093246. http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/openurl?genre=article&sid=nlm:pubmed&issn=0007-0963&date=2008&volume=158&issue=3&spage=573.  
  6. ^ Pavlotsky F, Nathansohn N, Kriger G, Shpiro D, Trau H (April 2008). "Ultraviolet-B treatment for cutaneous lichen planus: our experience with 50 patients". Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 24 (2): 83–6. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0781.2008.00344.x. PMID 18353088.  

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