Lichen Planus is a type of a rash that occurs on your skin and is commonly caused due to a deficiency in your autoimmune system. The actual cause for this disease to occur is unknown, however, there are a ton of known treatments that doctors can recommend for you. Lichen Planus can occur anywhere in the body, though it often occurs on the ankles, wrists, joints, and genital tissues. This disease usually clears up on its own within a few weeks or months, though you can turn to medical treatments to speed up the process of getting rid of it. There are many different treatments to choose from and your doctor will recommend one on the basis of your medical history. You won’t really need additional treatment for very mild versions of this disease as it clears up on its own however, since it causes itching, burning, and general discomfort, seeking treatment can help you gain relief. Some of the commonly used treatments types include antihistamines (which can help reduce inflammation and work very well if your rash has occurred due to an allergen), retinoids (which provide vitamin A and can either be applied topically or taken orally), corticosteroids, nonsteroidal creams, and even light therapy. You may be given one form of treatment or multiple forms, depending on what works on you and what doesn’t. Sometimes, finding the ideal and most effective treatment for your body can be a bit of a hit and miss procedure so you must be patient while your doctor recommends different treatments.
Your doctor will run a series of tests to first diagnose lichen planus. Some of these tests include biopsies (during which your doctor will extract a piece of tissue from the infected areas on your body and have a look under a microscope to determine what is wrong), a test for hepatitis C (as lichen planus is often related to hepatitis C, this test will be performed to determine whether you have this disease), and finally a few allergy tests (sometimes, lichen planus is triggered by allergies and you may have to find out what you are allergic to so that you can avoid it in the future). Once lichen planus is diagnosed, you will be given the appropriate treatment. If you have been prescribed retinoids, you will have to apply the cream topically or ingest a pill. If you have been given corticosteroids or nonsteroidal creams, you will have to apply them on your rashes as many times as you have been asked to. Corticosteroids are also available in the form of a pill and can be ingested. Light therapy involves the flashing of certain types of light at a certain frequency to get rid of the rash. Since Lichen Planus is a known disease with a known cure, one of the treatments is bound to work and therefore, it is important not to lose heart if you have already tried a few treatments and are not seeing any results. Immune reactive drugs are also often a part of the treatment and can be taken orally.
Any person who has been diagnosed with Lichen Planus is eligible to get the treatment. Usually, the treatment follows a specific order so you will first be eligible only for the corticosteroids, then light treatment if that doesn’t work, then retinoids, and so on. Your doctor can recommend the right order of the treatments on the basis of your medical history.
Any person who is not suffering from lichen planus is not eligible for the treatment. If you have a random rash that itches or burns, it does not mean that the treatments mentioned above will provide you with any relief. Using the wrong treatment can often aggravate your symptoms or cause more problems.
Some of the treatments mentioned above come with their own list of side effects. For instance, using corticosteroids can make your skin thinner in the areas where it is applied, skin irritations, an upset stomach or oral thrush. Similarly, the side effects of using light therapy is getting a sun burn. It also has a long term risk of getting skin cancer and cataracts. The side effects of using retinoids include birth defects, which is why pregnant women should strictly stay away from them. Breastfeeding women should also avoid using retinoids. If you have any allergies, it is better to let your doctor know immediately so that he or she can prescribe the right treatments accordingly.
Since the actual cause of lichen planus is unknown, there are no specific post treatment guidelines regarding your lifestyle that can help prevent the reoccurrence of this disease. If you have oral lichen planus, however, you will be ask to make certain changes like avoiding spicy food, smoking and drinking alcohol as they all function as mild irritants and can lead to a rash or the reoccurrence of the disease. For people for whom the disease is caused due to an allergy, the only post treatment guideline is to stay away from the items that lead to the allergic reactions. Having said that, all patients are different and based on your medical history, your doctor may suggest some additional guidelines pertaining to your body. Always follow post treatment guidelines with care.
When lichen planus is left on its own, it can resolve itself in a matter of weeks or even months. It goes away as randomly as it occurs. However, if you are seeking additional treatment, then the recovery time depends on the treatment that you are using. On an average, however, it can take up to 2-3 weeks for the condition to disappear completely. This does not include the time it takes to find the treatment type that is the most effective for you.
Most over the counter creams and ointments in India cost between Rs 150 – Rs 300, depending on the ointment, brand, and the strength of dosage. Pills, on the other hand, cost anywhere between Rs 50- Rs 150, again depending on the brand and the strength of the dosage.
The results of the treatment are usually permanent. The only case in which they are not permanent is if they are related to allergies, in which case you must always take care to avoid triggering the disease once more with the allergen.
There are many alternative treatments as well as home remedies that can be considered to treat this disease. You must take care of yourself at home in order to gain some relief from the symptoms of lichens planus like itching and burning. Soaking in a hot tub usually helps. As an additional (and optional) step, you can always add an essential oil that is known for its anti-inflammatory properties to the bath to further reduce the inflammation and itching on your skin. Lavender essential oil is a good option for this. You can also indulge in soaking in the tub along with oat meal as it can help subside the itching. Once the bath is over, applying a lotion to your skin, particularly lotions that contain aloe vera, can help with the symptoms of Lichens planus. Often, cool compresses also help with the itching and inflammation. Using over the counter hydrocortisone cream (which has at least 1% of hydrocortisone in it) can also help with the rash. Finally, you can also avoid scratching the rashes as this can prevent it from spreading further, thereby preventing more pain and itching.
The skin is the most exposed organ to irritants, and when the body recognizes something as foreign, the immune system kicks into action. It produces what is known as antibodies against the foreign bodies (antigens). However, in many situations, the body produces antibodies against its own cells or tissue or components, causing an autoimmune reaction. One such autoimmune reaction is lichen planus, which is a skin rash caused when the body produces antibodies against its own skin or mucous membranes.
Risk factors: While anyone with a weak immune system can develop lichen planus, the followings increase the chances of that happening:
Symptoms: Diagnosis of lichen planus is quite easy, as it has a characteristic appearance.
If required, a biopsy can be done in some cases to confirm the diagnosis. Allergy testing can also be done to confirm hyperactive immune system.
Treatments: This can depend on the severity of the condition. In people where it is not progressive or inflamed, it could be observed to run its natural course and subside.
For those requiring symptomatic treatment, the following can be used:
Lichen planus often does not require any treatment. However, depending on each individual, it may require topical and/or systemic treatment to manage the symptoms. It usually runs its course over 6 to 10 weeks and subsides on its own. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!