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How do I Choose the Best Lichen Planus Treatment?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Lichen planus is a non-contagious medical disorder in which the immune system attacks the skin or mucous membranes, causing bumps or sores which may be discolored, itchy, or even painful. It commonly affects the skin of the forearms or legs, but can also occur in the mouth or on the scalp, nails, or genitals. Determining the best lichen planus treatment for you depends largely on the severity of your condition. Mild cases may disappear on their own, while more severe outbreaks may need to be treated with topical creams, oral medications, or phototherapy.

While there is no cure for lichen planus, many cases gradually disappear over the course of several months. Therefore, if your lichen planus is mild, you may not need to seek medical treatment. If you experience itching as you wait for the condition to disappear, you might find that taking an oatmeal bath helps. Should your condition begin to visibly worsen or become intensely itchy or painful, you should speak to a physician about more intensive lichen planus treatment options.

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For moderate cases, lichen planus treatment often begins with a topical ointment or cream. Your physician may recommend a corticosteroid, antihistamine, or retinoid ointment. When applied to the affected area, these ointments may reduce inflammation and relieve itching. Figuring out which ointment best relieves your symptoms may be a process of elimination, and some cases of lichen planus can prove unresponsive to any topical treatment. In this case, a physician may prescribe an oral medication.

Just like topical options, the most common oral lichen planus treatments contain corticosteroids, antihistamines, or retinoids. As the oral versions of these drugs are ingested rather than applied to the affected area, however, they can prove more powerful treatments. When used for extended periods of time, however, some of these drugs may cause unwanted side effects. For instance, retinoids may cause birth defects, while corticosteroids can raise the blood pressure and cause the bones to become brittle. Due to these potential side effects, a physician may recommend an oral lichen planus treatment only if your case presents severe symptoms that do not respond to less invasive options.

A final lichen planus treatment is phototherapy, which involves exposing the affected area to ultraviolet B (UVB) or ultraviolet A (UVA) light. Phototherapy may reduce the severity of your lichen planus symptoms. It should be noted, however, that this treatment can temporarily make the skin and the eyes more susceptible to sun damage. Therefore, after undergoing phototherapy you should take care to protect your eyes and skin from direct sun exposure.

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