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Lichen planus

Beth G Goldstein, MD
Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Eliot Mostow, MD
Section Editors
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Jeffrey Callen, MD, FACP, FAAD
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Lichen planus is an uncommon disorder of unknown cause that most commonly affects middle-aged adults. Lichen planus may affect the skin (cutaneous lichen planus), oral cavity (oral lichen planus), genitalia (penile or vulvar lichen planus), scalp (lichen planopilaris), nails, or esophagus.

The diagnosis and management of lichen planus, with a focus on cutaneous lichen planus, will be reviewed here. Oral lichen planus, vulvar lichen planus, lichen planopilaris, nail lichen planus, and lichenoid drug eruption (drug-induced lichen planus) are discussed in greater detail separately. (See "Oral lichen planus: Pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis" and "Oral lichen planus: Management and prognosis" and "Lichen planopilaris" and "Vulvar lichen planus" and "Overview of nail disorders", section on 'Lichen planus' and "Lichenoid drug eruption (drug-induced lichen planus)".)


The epidemiology of lichen planus is not well-defined. Based upon limited data, cutaneous lichen planus is estimated to occur in less than 1 percent of the population [1].

Cutaneous lichen planus most frequently develops between the ages of 30 and 60 years [1,2]. Childhood cutaneous lichen planus occurs, but is uncommon [3]. There does not appear to be a strong sex or racial predilection for cutaneous lichen planus [1,2].

Epidemiologic data on other forms of lichen planus are reviewed separately. (See "Oral lichen planus: Pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis", section on 'Epidemiology' and "Vulvar lichen planus", section on 'Epidemiology' and "Lichen planopilaris", section on 'Epidemiology' and "Lichenoid drug eruption (drug-induced lichen planus)", section on 'Epidemiology'.)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jun 11, 2016.
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