4 Things You Need To Know About Lichen Nitidus

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Lichen nitidus is a rare, inflammatory skin disorder that presents as clusters of papules on the skin. Here are four things you need to know about this disorder.

What are the signs of lichen nitidus?

If you have this disorder, you'll develop many shiny, skin-colored papules. These papules tend to be small at between one and three millimeters in diameter. They can be either round or polygonal and have well-defined edges. Generally, the papules are asymptomatic, but some sufferers experience intense itching.

Any part of your skin can be affected by this condition, but the most common areas are the trunk, the fronts of the arms, the backs of the hands, and the genitals. In some cases, the papules can even develop on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet.

What causes it?

The cause of lichen nitidus is still a mystery. However, it's been reported to be associated with a variety of diseases. It's been linked to other skin disorders like atopic dermatitis or lichen planus, as well as autoimmune disorders like Crohn's disease and juvenile chronic arthritis. It's not yet known how these conditions are linked to lichen nitidus.

What complications can it cause?

This disorder is not dangerous, and fortunately, it's not a sign of any serious underlying health problems. Since lichen nitidus is asymptomatic for most people, the main complications are related to the cosmetic changes caused by the disorder. If the papules develop on a highly visible part of your body, like your face or the backs of your hands, you may experience low self-esteem or self-consciousness. If the papules develop on your genitals, your partner may assume they are something contagious, which can lead to relationship problems.

If your papules itch, you may find that the itching is distracting during the day or keeps you from being able to fall asleep at night. Excessive scratching can also break the skin, which puts you at risk of secondary infections. If you're concerned about these complications, seek treatment right away.  

Does it require treatment?

Lichen nitidus usually goes away on its own within a few months to a year, and once the papules are gone, you won't have any scarring. Therefore, if you aren't concerned about the appearance of the papules and they aren't itchy, your dermatologist may recommend leaving them alone. If your papules are bothering you, many treatments are available to speed up the healing process.

What treatments are available?

Your dermatologist may give you a prescription for topical corticosteroids, a medicated cream that you'll apply to your papules. This cream will reduce inflammation in the area and help ease your symptoms, though it can cause side effects when it's used for an extended period.

If you're concerned about the side effects associated with corticosteroids, your dermatologist may recommend using tacrolimus cream, instead. This cream works by suppressing your immune system, which can help ease your inflammation. This medication makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so you'll need to limit sun exposure and wear sunscreen while you're using it to avoid burns.

Your dermatologist can also use ultraviolet light therapy to treat it, though of course, not if you're using tacrolimus cream. Ultraviolet light therapy works by shutting down the immune cells in your skin. During these treatments, you'll be exposed to ultraviolet light in a controlled environment. A mild sunburn is common after treatment, but with proper monitoring, you won't get a severe burn.

If you have clusters of small, skin-colored papules on your body and are concerned about their appearance or their itch, see a dermatologist right away. Contact a company like Advanced Dermatology Care for more information.