Oral Lichen Planus (OLP) is a non-infectious, chronic, ongoing, inflammatory condition that attacks the mucus membrane inside of your mouth. It probably fits into the category of diseases known as Autoimmune Disease. It certainly behaves like one where a given immune system fails to recognise that body’s tissue as friendly and attacks it as if it were hostile or invasive.
Oral Lichen Planus has an incidence of about 2% of the population, affects women and men in equal proportion and has an age of onset of over 50.
Symptoms of Oral Lichen Planus
The lesions of OLP can be found on gums, surface of the tongue, inside the cheek – the so-called bucal mucosa and the lips along the upper surface. Their appearance varies and can be any of the following:
- In white lacy patches or
- As areas of red swollen tissue or
- Open shallow lesions where the mucus membrane has been stripped away. This is sometimes referred to as Erosive Oral Lichen Planus.
The lesions may bleed, be very uncomfortable and make the eating of certain foods all but impossible. Spicy, salty, citrus and hot foods are particularly intolerable. If not treated and brought under some control OLP can make life very miserable indeed.
Causes of Oral Lichen Planus
Nobody knows what causes Oral Lichen Planus much less do they know how to treat it. I know this because I have been struggling with my own Erosive Oral Lichen Planus now for three years and I’m a medical doctor. The Professor of Oral Medicine treating me is kind and sympathetic but readily admits that he too is at a loss to explain it beyond mentioning our old friend autoimmune disease.
Treatment of Oral Lichen Planus
There seems to be no cure for OLP. What there is is control and that too comes with a price in terms of possible side-effects of the favoured medications which are immunosuppressants and steroids. Yes I know, nasty medicine but their really seem to be little alternative. Currently I’m on Prednisalone 10 mg daily and Micophenolate 1,000 mg daily. This keeps the lesion on the upper surface of my tongue under check and all very tolerable. But of course I would far rather be off these potentially toxic medeications.
Smalls studies have been conducted into efficacy of Aloe Vera Gel and another into Turmeric Oral rinse and both showed some effect and are, in my opinion, certainly worth trying.
If you are or have been affected by this scourge then we would love to hear your story and suggestions. Thank you.