What Diseases Can Lichens Give?


Quick Answer

While the lichen plant can't cause any diseases, "lichen" is also a term that describes skin diseases such as lichen sclerosus and lichen planus, as Mayo Clinic explains. However, doctors do not know the cause of lichen diseases, but some suspect it relates to the immune system.

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Full Answer

An individual with lichen sclerosus develops thin, white patchy skin around the genitals and anus, but it can occur elsewhere as well, as indicated by Mayo Clinic. The infected area can also develop smooth, white spots or wrinkles. Because the skin infected with lichen sclerosus is so thin, it tears easily in addition to being itchy and painful. Lichen sclerosus can resolve on its own, but severe cases require corticosteroid treatments, immune-modulating medications and topical sex hormones.

Like lichen sclerosus, lichen planus also causes white patches of skin, but they occur inside the mouth, according to Mayo Clinic. As a chronic, inflammatory condition, the mucous membranes also become red, swollen and painful during flare-ups, and it causes the development of canker sores on the tongue, lips, gums and cheeks. Individuals with lichen planus can experience pain when eating certain foods or brushing their teeth. Treatments that can help manage the disease include corticosteroids, retinoids, immune suppressants and lifestyle changes.

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