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Lichen Planus – Overview

Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the skin, mouth and genitals. It is characterised by rows or clusters of dark, raised, flat-topped skin lesions.

In 2008, a research conducted at the Department of Oral Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, demonstrated the efficacy of a homeopathic drug Ignatiain the treatment of oral lichen planus.

What is Lichen Planus?

Lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects almost 0.5 to 2% of the world population. It presents with dark, raised, flat-topped lesions, mostly affecting the skin, but can also involve the scalp, nails, oral cavity and genitals in many cases.

Lichen planus is neither infectious nor contagious in nature. Apart from being chronic, the disease has periods of remissions (when the symptoms disappear or reduce in intensity) and relapses (when the disease symptoms increase in intensity).

The disease can affect people of any age group, though it tends to be common in young adults and middle ages. However, children and old people can also be affected by this disease. Lichen planus affects females more commonly as compared to males. The cause of lichen planus is not well understood.

Variants of lichen planus

Lichen planus may occur differently in different individuals. Certain variants respond better to treatment, whereas others tend to be more obstinate. Depending on the presentation of the lesions (and their peculiar locations), described below are some types of lichen planus:

  • hypertrophic lichen planus - (lichen planus verrucosus) - thickened lesions of lichen planus, usually seen on the extremities, especially the shin. It tends to be very itchy in nature;
  • follicular lichen planus -(or lichen planopilaris) - hair follicles get affected, which further leads to scarring. There is hair loss in the affected parts;
  • lichen planus actinicus -(actinic lichen planus) - common in Middle Eastern countries and India in the summers. Exposed areas of the face, dorsum of the hands, arms and nape of the neck develop dark, lesions, with pale borders;
  • lichen planus pigmentosus - another variant common in India, where dark-brown spots develop in sun-exposed areas and folds of the skin, and spread to the upper body;
  • annular lichen planus - commonly involves the male genitalia, but also has a predilection for folds of the skin, such as the axilla and groin folds, marked by small clusters of lesions in a ring form; and
  • linear lichen planus - lesions develop along a straight line, usually on the extremities. They may develop secondary to trauma or itching (the Koebner's phenomenon).

Apart from these, there are other rare types of lichen planus such as bullous, ulcerative and atrophic lichen planus.

Causes of Lichen Planus

The exact cause of lichen planus has not been understood clearly yet. Some probable causes include immune reactions, chemicals, certain drugs, like anti-inflammatory medications, long-term use of certain antibiotics, excess stress, heredity and amalgam dental fillings.

Symptoms of Lichen Planus

Lichen planus can be easily identified by the typical location of spots and their characteristic ‘violaceous’ appearance. Eruptions often involve the insides of wrists, ankles, lower back, scalp, nails and mucous membranes that line the mouth, nose, vagina, penis and anus. Small clusters in rows of flat-topped eruptions come up in these places; itching may vary from mild to severe.

Homeopathic Treatment for Lichen Planus

Homeopathic medicines have been demonstrated to have a significant impact on the psyche of the patients, thereby giving better results in the treatment of this condition.

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