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Vulvar lichen planus

Susan M Cooper, MB ChB, MRCGP, FRCP, MD
Stephanie J Arnold, FACD, MBBS (Hons), BSc (Hons)
Section Editors
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Deputy Editor
Abena O Ofori, MD


Lichen planus is a relatively uncommon inflammatory dermatologic condition with subtypes that can affect the skin, mucosa, nails, and scalp. Vulvar lichen planus is a subtype of lichen planus that is characterized by erosive, papular, or hypertrophic lesions on the vulva, with or without concomitant vaginal involvement.

Erosive lichen planus (also known as mucosal lichen planus) can result in severe tissue destruction that leads to vulvar pain and urinary and sexual impairment. Erosive lichen planus also can affect other mucosal sites, such as the oral cavity, nasal mucosa, esophagus, larynx, conjunctiva, and urethra [1].

High quality studies to guide treatment of vulvar lichen planus are lacking. Superpotent topical corticosteroids are well accepted as the first-line treatment for erosive disease.

Vulvar lichen planus will be discussed here. Other clinical presentations of lichen planus are reviewed separately. (See "Lichen planus", section on 'Clinical features' and "Oral lichen planus: Pathogenesis, clinical features, and diagnosis".)


Lichen planus is estimated to affect 0.5 to 2 percent of the population; estimates have varied based upon geographic location and diagnostic criteria [2]. The incidence and prevalence of vulvar lichen planus has not been clearly established, but vulvar disease may be a common manifestation of lichen planus in women. In one series of 37 women diagnosed with lichen planus, vulvar lesions were present in 51 percent [3].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Dec 30, 2015.
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