Purpose To evaluate the possible role of stress before the onset/extension of lichen planus.
Patients and method Forty-six outpatients with lichen planus were enrolled. The design was a case-control study (controls had skin diseases with low psychosomatic component). Stressful situations were evaluated using Holmes and Rahe's social readjustment rating scale.
Results Lichen planus had an incidence of 0.36% among dermatological conditions. In the lichen planus group, there was a female predominance (76%) and a median age around 50 years. More than 67% of cases experienced at least one stressful event, compared with 21% of controls (χ2 = 17.58, P < 0.001). The odds ratio was 7.44. There was a borderline significant difference in the mean number of stressful events between lichen planus patients and controls (P = 0.06). We divided the situations described by Holmes and Rahe into three categories: family, personal, and job or financial problems. The presence of major life events was significant different in patients and controls (P = 0.005). Family matters were described by 43.6% of lichen planus patients, statistically significant compared with controls (P = 0.002). In almost 25% of cases of lichen planus, ‘the stressful event’ was represented by the illness or death of someone dear. ‘Personal problems’ seemed to be important compared with controls (P = 0.04), exams representing 25% of these matters. There was no difference between the patients and controls regarding the importance of job or financial changes.
Conclusion Stressful situations, especially related to family, may have a role in the onset and extension of lichen planus lesions.