What are the symptoms of lichen planus?
Symptoms of lichen planus depend on where it develops.
In the mouth, lips or tongue it may cause:
- White, lacy patches
- Painful sores on the insides of the cheeks, gums, tongue, inside of the lips and on the palate (roof of the mouth)
- Bright red, swollen gums that can peel
- Burning sensations inside the mouth
- Sensitivity to spicy foods, hot or acidic foods
- Bleeding and irritation when brushing your teeth
- Thick painful patches on the tongue
- Discomfort when chewing, swallowing or even speaking
On the skin, it forms reddish-purple, itchy, shiny, firm bumps or rash. Sometimes the flat-topped bumps have tiny white lines through them. Most people have a few bumps, but others have many, appearing on different parts of the body, over a period of a few weeks. Bumps are most likely to develop on wrists, forearms, lower back, legs, ankles, and sometimes in the genital area. As the bumps appear to heal, more bumps develop. After lichen planus heals, it can leave dark spots on the skin in the affected area.
Other symptoms may include:
- Patches of thick, rough and scaly skin, especially in areas where bumps keep returning; are more common on legs and ankles.
- Itching that’s worse on the thick patches of skin
- Blisters are not common but do occur, forming scabs or crusts
- Nail damage or loss of nails
In the genital area, and other areas with mucus membranes, red, eroded, burning, painful lesions can develop. Occasionally there may be white areas as well.
In the ears, lichen planus can lead to hearing loss if it is not treated.
On the scalp, it can cause patches of temporary or permanent hair loss, redness and irritation, bumps and scars after the area heals. However, it rarely occurs on the scalp.
Finger and toenails can be affected, although it’s rare. The result can be thin, split nails, ridges/grooves on the nails, and temporary or permanent loss of nails.
Eyes are rarely involved, but lichen planus on the mucous membranes of the eyes can cause scarring and blindness.
Esophagus is rarely affected, but it can become narrowed, or form tight, ringlike bands that make swallowing difficult.