Frequently asked questions about lichen planus

What is lichen planus?

Lichen planus is a common mouth and skin condition, which can often affect the cheeks and gums. It can also occur on the skin of the arms and legs.

What causes lichen planus?

The cause of lichen planus remains unknown.

What does it look like?

There are different types of lichen planus, but the commonest appears as a white lace-like pattern on the cheek or side of the tongue. Sometimes, it can look like a white patch, red patch, or even like an ulcer. Occasionally, the lichen planus changes in colour, size and shape.

Will it go away on its own or will it need treatment?

In about 20% of cases of lichen planus, it will simply disappear on its own, but will usually take many years. Commonly, it never goes away, but does not cause any problems. However, some rare ulcerative or erosive types of lichen planus can have sinister (serious) changes over many years, and they require regular follow-up by your dentist or oral and maxillofacial team. A biopsy might be necessary.