Lichen planus

Lichen planus is a non-infectious rash that can affect different parts of your body, including the inside of your mouth. You should see your GP if you think you might have it, (see section below).

When to see your GP 

See a GP if you have:

  • clusters of shiny, raised, purple-red blotches on your arms, legs or body (you may see fine white lines on the blotches)
  • white patches on your gums, tongue or the insides of your cheeks
  • burning and stinging in your mouth, especially when you eat or drink
  • bald patches appearing on your scalp
  • sore red patches on your vulva
  • rough, thinning nails with grooves on
  • ring-shaped purple or white patches on your penis

Lichen planus skin rash on back

You may only have one of these symptoms.

It is not known what causes it though it is suspected that it may be caused by an autoimmune problem (where a person’s own immune system mistakenly attacks their body).

Lichen planus on your skin can be very itchy, but not always. You can't catch lichen planus and it doesn't usually come back once it's cleared up.

Lichen planus in a mouth, inside right cheek

It often appears on the inside of your wrist. White patches in your mouth may be lichen planus.

 

Other possible causes of a rash 

Below are some possible causes and symptoms of rashes. But don’t self-diagnose – see your GP if you’re worried about your symptoms.

  • psoriasis - red, flaky, crusty patches, often on elbows or knees
  • pityriasis rosea - raised, red, scaly patches on the body
  • lichen sclerosus - itching and white patches on the vulva
  • ringworm - ring-like red patch anywhere on the body
  • eczema - itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red skin

Treatments from a GP 

Lichen planus on your skin usually gets better on its own in about 6 to 9 months. If you need treatment, your GP will discuss your options with you.

Creams and ointments from your GP can help control the rash and ease itching.

If creams and ointments don't work or you have severe lichen planus, steroid tablets or treatment with a special kind of light (light therapy) can help.

Lichen planus in your mouth can last for several years. Mouthwashes and sprays from your GP can help ease symptoms like burning or sore gums.

How to relieve lichen planus at home 

If you have lichen planus on your skin, there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms. These include:

  • washing with plain, warm water – avoid soaps and body washes
  • washing your hair over a sink or bath so the shampoo doesn't come into contact with the rest of your skin
  • using an emollient (moisturising treatment for the skin) on the rash

If the lichen planus is on your vulva, it may also help if you:

  • use petroleum jelly before and after weeing
  • hold a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a clean tea towel against the affected bits to ease itching and swelling
  • avoid wearing tights

If you have it in your mouth, there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms. These include:

  • brushing your teeth carefully twice a day to keep your gums healthy
  • avoiding salty, spicy or acidic foods if they make your mouth sore
  • avoiding alcohol and mouthwashes that contain it

 

The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.

For further information see terms and conditions.

Health conditions A to Z

Search by health condition or symptoms

Or find conditions beginning with …

Share this page

What do you want to do?
What is your question about?
Do you want a reply?
Your email address
To reply to you, we need your email address
Your feedback

We will not reply to your feedback.  Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

This feedback form is for issues with the nidirect website only.

You can use it to report a problem or suggest an improvement to a webpage.

If you have a question about a government service or policy, you should contact the relevant government organisation directly as we don’t have access to information about you held by government departments.

You must be aged 13 years or older - if you’re younger, ask someone with parental responsibility to send the feedback for you.

The nidirect privacy notice applies to any information you send on this feedback form.

Don't include any personal or financial information, for example National Insurance, credit card numbers, or phone numbers.

Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum.

What to do next

Comments or queries about angling can be emailed to anglingcorrespondence@daera-ni.gov.uk 

What to do next

If you have a comment or query about benefits, you will need to contact the government department or agency which handles that benefit.  Contacts for common benefits are listed below.

Carer's Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912
Email 
dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Discretionary support / Short-term benefit advance

Call 0800 587 2750 
Email 
customerservice.unit@communities-ni.gov.uk

Disability Living Allowance

Call 0800 587 0912 
Email dcs.incomingpostteamdhc2@nissa.gsi.gov.uk

Employment and Support Allowance

Call 0800 587 1377

Jobseeker’s Allowance

Contact your local Jobs & Benefits office

Personal Independence Payment

Call 0800 587 0932

If your query is about another benefit, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

Comments or queries about the Blue Badge scheme can be emailed to bluebadges@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk or you can also call 0300 200 7818.

What to do next

For queries or advice about careers, contact the Careers Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Child Maintenance, contact the Child Maintenance Service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about claiming compensation due to a road problem, contact DFI Roads claim unit.

What to do next

For queries or advice about criminal record checks, email ani@accessni.gov.uk

What to do next

Application and payment queries can be emailed to ema_ni@slc.co.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about employment rights, contact the Labour Relations Agency.

What to do next

For queries or advice about birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates and research, contact the General Register Office Northern Ireland (GRONI) by email gro_nisra@finance-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries about:

If your query is about another topic, select ‘Other’ from the drop-down menu above.

What to do next

For queries or advice about passports, contact HM Passport Office.

What to do next

For queries or advice about Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs), including parking tickets and bus lane PCNs, email dcu@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about pensions, contact the Northern Ireland Pension Centre.

What to do next

If you wish to report a problem with a road or street you can do so online in this section.

If you wish to check on a problem or fault you have already reported, contact DfI Roads.

What to do next

For queries or advice about historical, social or cultural records relating to Northern Ireland, use the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) enquiry service.

What to do next

For queries or advice about rates, email LPSCustomerTeam@lpsni.gov.uk

What to do next

For queries or advice about  60+ and Senior Citizen SmartPasses (which can be used to get concessionary travel on public transport), contact Smartpass - Translink.