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  • Writer's pictureDr Ronnie Katureebe


Lichen planus is a 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.

About 1 in 100 people will get lichen planus at some time. It is not caused by an infection, and you can’t pass it on to others. Lichen planus usually affects men and women in middle age.

Lichen planus is a non-infectious, inflammatory skin disorder. People with hepatitis C are more susceptible to lichen planus. Treatment for lichen planus may include antihistamines, phototherapy, or steroid creams.


The signs and symptoms of lichen planus vary depending on the areas affected. Typical signs and symptoms are:

● Purplish, flat bumps, most often on the inner forearm, wrist or ankle, and sometimes the genitals

● Itching

● Lacy white patches in the mouth or on the lips or tongue

● Painful sores in the mouth or vagina

● Change in scalp colour

● Nail damage or loss


After examining the skin and identifying the characteristic rash, a doctor may be able to diagnose lichen planus based on its appearance.

In some cases, a doctor may need to perform a punch biopsy, in which a circular tool extracts a small sample of the skin’s deeper layers. Often, stitches are required to close the wound. The sample is examined under a microscope to confirm a diagnosis of lichen planus.

If the doctor is still unsure, the patient may be referred to a dermatologist available at Kampala Dermatology Skin Clinic.

For a person with oral lichen planus, a dentist or oral specialist will usually reach a diagnosis by taking a biopsy.


The exact cause of lichen planus is unclear.

Many believe it is an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues.

Lichen planus can occur as a reaction to certain medicines, including:

● Anti-inflammatory medications

● Hepatitis C, a virus that attacks your liver ● Certain medicines, including some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and malaria ● Reactions to metal fillings in your teeth ● An autoimmune reaction, meaning the body's own defence system, the immune system, attacks your mouth and other skin cells by mistake.

TREATMENT. If your biopsy shows lichen planus and you have no symptoms, you probably do not need treatment. In most cases, lichen planus will go away within 2 years. If you have symptoms, such as severe itching or sores in your mouth or genital area, treatment can help. If you have lichen planus on your scalp, treatment is essential to prevent permanent hair loss. Lichen planus has no cure, but different treatments can help relieve your symptoms and speed healing. Possible treatments that you can get at Kampala Dermatology Skin Clinic include:

Antihistamine medicine to relieve itching Steroids on your skin or in your mouth to fight inflammation (You may also take steroids in pill form for severe cases) A type of ultraviolet light treatment called PUVA Retinoic acid, a medicine derived from vitamin A and usually used for acne Tacrolimus and pimecrolimus, ointments used for eczema.

HOW TO MANAGE AND LIVE WITH THE CONDITION. You can’t do much to prevent lichen planus, but once you have it, you can take steps to keep it from

getting worse.

Avoid injuries to your skin. Apply cool compresses instead of scratching. Limit the stress in your life. For oral lichen planus, stop smoking, avoid alcohol, maintain good oral hygiene, and avoid any foods that seem to irritate your mouth.

Lichen planus is not a dangerous disease, and it usually goes away on its own. However, in some people, it may come back.

Please request an appointment to get help for your condition. Our facility is safe and open, find us at Kampala Dermatology Skin Clinic Bandali Rise Bugolobi or call us on 0753904478.

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