Lichen Planus: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 4/21/2020

Lichen planus is a chronic skin disease usually seen in adults. Inflammation of the skin and mucus membranes characterizes lichen planus. It is most common on the wrists, ankles, mouth, and genital areas, including the vaginal lining in women. In certain areas, extensive lichen planus seems to be associated with a hepatitis C virus infection, but it is not likely that the virus causes lichen planus. Some drugs, including those containing arsenic, bismuth, or gold, can produce a skin reaction that appears identical to lichen planus.

Signs and symptoms of lichen planus include small itchy bumps on the skin or groups of bumps that are flat-topped, shiny, polygonal, and purple to gray in color. Individual bumps can contain thin, filmy web-like white lines called Wickham's striae. These are easiest to detect when lichen planus involves mucosal tissues, such as the lips or cheeks.

Cause of lichen planus

The cause of lichen planus remains unknown.

Other lichen planus symptoms and signs

  • Itchy Bumps May Contain Thin, Filmy Web-Like Lines Called Wickham's Striae
  • Small Flat-Topped, Shiny, Polygonal, Purple to Gray Bumps on the Skin


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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.