Lichen planus

Dale Hodgson was diagnosed with oral lichen planus when she was 44, and has learnt to adapt her lifestyle in order to cope.

Dale Hodgson was diagnosed with oral lichen planus when she was 44, and has learnt to adapt her lifestyle to cope.

"I remember waking up one morning in May 1995, when I was 44, and my mouth felt scalded, like I'd eaten something that had burnt it. When I went into the bathroom to have a look in the mirror, I was horrified by what I saw. The inside of my mouth was bright red, including my gums and tongue.

"I immediately booked an appointment with my GP. I was in agony. I could hardly eat or drink anything, and cleaning my teeth was incredibly painful.

"After seeing both my GP and dentist, I was eventually referred to an oral consultant and maxillofacial surgeon, as neither knew what was wrong with me.

"My consultant was brilliant. As soon as I opened my mouth, he told me he thought it was oral lichen planus. He made me up lots of lidocaine mouthwash, which acts as an anaesthetic, so I could eat and clean my teeth without pain.

"I had a biopsy and the results confirmed I had lichen planus. My consultant gave me some oral steroids to take for 10 days. These took away some of the discomfort by reducing the soreness and swelling, but they're not a cure.

"After this treatment, I was given a steroid spray to use four times a day. No one really knows what causes lichen planus, but both my consultants were positive that stress aggravates it. It's true that when I'm stressed, I have a particularly horrendous time with my mouth.

"I reached a point where I decided to stop taking steroids for my lichen planus. I didn't want to keep taking them when they weren't making a huge difference. The inside of my mouth is covered in white streaks and patches that are sore all the time, but I try not to think about it and have learnt to live with the condition. 

"There are certain foods I haven't been able to eat since I was diagnosed. Anything crunchy or crispy will cut my mouth and give me lesions, and citrus foods will bring me up in blood blisters. Spicy foods and mint leave me in agony, but I just work round it and eat other things instead.

"I just get on with life. I try to chill out and keep my stress levels down by going for massages and doing yoga. After all, there are people out there with worse things."

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