Lichen planus: Who gets and causes

Who gets lichen planus?

Anyone can get lichen planus. It is most common in middle-aged adults. Women get lichen planus in their mouths more often than men do.

What causes lichen planus?

What causes most cases of lichen planus remains unclear. One theory is that lichen planus is an autoimmune disease. This means the person’s immune system reacts as though the skin and other parts of the body are foreign. When this happens, the body starts to attack itself. To find out whether lichen planus is an autoimmune disease, we need more research.

We do know the following:

  • Some medicines can cause a rash that looks like lichen planus. These medicines include diuretics (treatment for high blood pressure and heart disease) and medicine taken to prevent malaria. Be sure to tell your dermatologist about every medicine that you take.
  • In the mouth, a metal filling may be the cause. This is rare, but it can happen. If this is the cause, replacing the metal filling with a non-metal filling will get rid of the lichen planus.
  • A rare type of lichen planus, familial bullous lichen planus, runs in families. Other forms of lichen planus do not seem to run in families.
  • There may be a link between lichen planus and infection with the hepatitis C virus. Many people with hepatitis C also have lichen planus. Your dermatologist may check to see whether you have this virus.

Learn more about lichen planus:

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