Lichen planus is an inflammatory condition which may affect the mouth, skin and genital region. Oral lichen planus may occur on its own or in combination with lichen planus of the skin or genitals. It is thought to affect 1 to 2% per cent of the population, and typically affects middle-aged and elderly women but may occur in men. The cause of lichen planus is unknown in most cases. Occasionally it may be caused by certain medicines or dental filling materials.
Oral lichen planus may be asymptomatic but may cause symptoms such as burning, stinging or soreness. Ulcers may occur.
An important feature of oral lichen planus is a predisposition to cancerous change which carries about a 1% risk over a period of 10 years.
Often a biopsy is required to confirm the diagnosis and to exclude any worrying changes.
Although most cases of oral lichen planus can not be cured, treatments are available to reduce symptoms when present. These treatments may vary from using a simple mouthwash to reduce the symptoms to the use of drugs to control the condition.
Patients with this condition may require monitoring if there are features which suggest that they may be at risk of cancerous change.