Harvard Health Letter

By the way, doctor: Could this skin condition be caused by stress?

Q. I've been diagnosed with lichen planus. Could it have been caused by stress or perhaps exposure to mercury? (I eat a lot of tuna.) And does it ever go away?

A. Lichen planus is a fairly rare skin condition producing a shiny, flat, purplish rash that often appears on the inside wrist. The rash can be itchy and unsightly. It may also affect the inside of the mouth and the genitals. Cases that affect the mouth cause whitish streaks on the inside of the cheeks. Painful sores may also develop, and they can turn cancerous, although that's rare.

Most evidence suggests that lichen planus is a disorder related to the immune system. T cells, a type of white blood cell, react to certain tissues in the skin and the mucous membranes, instead of targeting foreign pathogens as they're supposed to.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »