Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Leprosy, School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkata, India

2 Department of Tropical Medicine, School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkata, India


Background: Lichen planus (LP) is a chronic inflammatory
disorder involving the skin, mucosa, hair, and nails. Previous
reports have shown a possible association between LP and
metabolic derangement, leading to increased cardiovascular risk
among these patients. Our study aimed to assess the prevalence
of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its components in LP patients
and to study their relationship with mucosal involvement in LP.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional observational study of
123 LP patients. Demographic and clinical data were obtained,
and evaluation was done for the presence of abdominal obesity,
hypertension, hyperglycemia, and dyslipidemia. MetS was
diagnosed according to the modified National Cholesterol
Education Program: Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP III)
criteria for the South Asian population. Data analysis was done
using appropriate statistical methods.
Results: The prevalence of MetS in LP patients was 31%. The mean
age of LP patients having MetS was considerably higher than
those without MetS (44.8 ± 13.6 vs. 33.3 ± 15.9 years; P = 0.0002).
Although statistically insignificant, female patients and patients with
mucosal involvement showed a higher prevalence of MetS. Central
obesity, hypertension, hyperglycemia, and hypertriglyceridemia
were more prevalent in mucosal LP patients than in those without
mucosal lesions, with hyperglycemia having a significantly higher
prevalence in mucosal LP (41% vs. 18%; P = 0.015).
Conclusion: Incre ased age, female gender, and mucosal
involvement are important predictors of concurrent metabolic
derangement in LP patients. Thus, these patients should be
screened for the presence of MetS and its components.



Lichenoid disorders are inflammatory dermatoses characterized clinically by papules and plaques and histologically by a band-like lymphocytic infiltrate in the papillary dermis 1 . Lichen planus (LP), the prototype of lichenoid dermatoses, is a chronic disorder of unknown etiology involving the skin, mucosa, and appendages. It affects about 0.5–1% of the population worldwide and is characterized by pruritic, violaceous, flat-topped papules and plaques 2 , 3 . It is believed to represent a T-cell-mediated inflammatory response. This chronic inflammatory process and oxidative stress induction seen in LP may be linked to the development of metabolic derangement 4 - 6 . An association between LP and metabolic disorders has been reported in multiple studies worldwide 7 - 19 .

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) refers to a cluster of abnormalities that increase the risk of morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease and diabetes 20 . The prevalence of MetS and its relationship with LP varies widely in published studies. In India, data on metabolic derangement in LP patients are scarce, with only a few of the related studies originating from eastern India. Our study was designed to assess the prevalence of MetS and its components in LP patients and to study their relationship with mucosal involvement in LP.


This was a hospital-based cross-sectional observational study conducted at a tertiary care center in eastern India. All consecutive patients with a clinical diagnosis of LP, confirmed by histopathological examination wherever necessary, were selected from patients attending the dermatology outpatient department over a period of one year, starting from 1st March 2018. Based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria, a total of 123 patients were enrolled in the study after informed consent. The inclusion criteria for cases included new patients with clinical and/or histopathological diagnosis of classical or any morphological variant of LP. Patients on treatment or previously treated for LP, pregnant patients, and severely ill patients were excluded from the study.

Demographic and clinical data pertaining to age, gender, duration of illness, sites of involvement, and known history of hypertension, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia were obtained from the enrolled patients using an interviewer‑administered questionnaire. The patients were clinically examined for morphological type of LP and mucosal involvement, including oral as well as genital lesions. Hair and nail involvement was also noted. Waist circumference was measured at the level of the umbilicus using a tape measure. Blood pressure (BP) was measured in the arm using a sphygmomanometer at least 15 minutes after rest in the sitting posture. Venous blood samples were collected after overnight fasting for 12 hours for estimation of fasting blood sugar (FBS) by the hexokinase method and serum triglyceride (TG) and serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) by enzymatic methods. MetS was diagnosed based on National Cholesterol Education Program: Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP‑ATP III) criteria with a modification in the criteria for central obesity for the South Asian population (including Indians), as shown in Table 1 21 , 22 . Patients satisfying three or more of these criteria were diagnosed with MetS.

Central obesity Waist circumference
≥ 90 cm for men
≥ 80 cm for women
Hypertension Blood Pressure ≥ 130/85 mmHg or specific medication
Fasting blood sugar ≥ 100 mg/dl or specific medication or previously diagnosed type 2 diabetes
Serum triglyceride ≥ 150 mg/dl or specific medication
Serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol < 40 mg/dl in men
< 50 mg/dl in women
or specific medication
Table 1. Modified National Cholesterol Education Program: Adult Treatment Panel III criteria for diagnosis of metabolic syndrome

All data were tabulated in a Microsoft Excel sheet and statistically analyzed using the same software. Numerical variables were computed as mean and standard deviation, while categorical data were described through frequencies and percentages. For inferential statistics, we used t-tests and chi-squared tests for intergroup comparisons of continuous and categorical variables, respectively. P-values of less than 0.05 were taken as statistically significant.

The details of the study were discussed with all patients, and written informed consent was obtained from the participants. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the Clinical Research Ethics Committee of the institution.


One hundred and twenty-three patients participated in this study. There were 57 (46%) males and 66 (54%) females, with a male-to-female ratio of 1:1.16. The mean age of the patients was 36.9 ± 16.1 years. Most patients (41%; n=51) were in the age group of 40–59 years. The duration of LP in the patients ranged from 1 to 144 months, with an average duration of 18.3 ± 25.7 months.

Among the study subjects, 89 patients (72%) had skin LP, 19 (16%) had mucosal LP, and 15 (12%) had both skin and mucosal involvement. Also, 13 patients (11%) showed nail involvement. The most common morphological was classical LP in 75 patients, followed by hypertrophic LP in 9 patients. Among the 28 patients with oral lesions, 23 had reticular, 4 had erosive, and 1 had plaque-like oral LP. Seven out of the eight patients with genital lesions had erosive LP, while one had annular LP.

Thirty-eight (31%) of the patients enrolled were found to have MetS. The prevalence among females was 35% as compared to 26% among males (P = 0.410). Table 2 compares various characteristics between LP patients with and without MetS. The mean age of LP patients having MetS was substantially higher than those lacking MetS (44.8 ± 13.6 vs. 33.3 ± 15.9 years; P = 0.0002). Prevalence was maximum in the age group of 50–59 years, while none of the patients below 20 years of age had MetS (Figure 1). Also, 41% of the patients with mucosal involvement had MetS as compared to 27% of those without any mucosal lesions (P = 0.191).

MetS Present (n = 38) MetS Absent (n = 85) P-value
Mean age ± SD (years) 44.8 ± 13.6 33.3 ± 15.9 0.0002
Mean duration of LP ± SD (months) 13.0 ± 15.2 20.7 ± 29.0 0.129
Oral lesions 13 (34%) 15 (18%) 0.073
Genital lesions 3 (8%) 5 (6%) 0.702
Nail involvement 6 (16%) 7 (8%) 0.346
Table 2. Comparison of characteristics between lichen planus (LP) patients with and without metabolic syndrome (MetS)

The LP patients with MetS showed a shorter mean duration of lesions and a higher prevalence of mucosal and nail involvement as compared to those without MetS. However, the P values were not significant in any of these cases.

Figure 1. Line chart showing the age-specific prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the study population.

Among the patients with MetS, the most common morphology of skin lesions was classical LP, followed by LP pigmentosus (Table 3). The predominant type of oral LP in this group was the reticular type. Three patients with MetS had genital lesions, and all three had erosive LP.

Type Frequency (%)
Skin lesions (n = 32) 27 (84)
Classic 1 (3)
Hypertrophic 3 (9)
LP Pigmentosus Linear 0
Actinic 0
Bullous 1 (3)
Annular 0
Follicular 0
Oral lesions (n = 13)
Reticular 10 (77)
Erosive 2 (15)
Plaque-like 1 (8)
Genital lesions (n = 3)
Erosive 3 (100)
Annular Frequency (%) 0
Table 3. Types of lichen planus (LP) in patients with metabolic syndrome

The most prevalent component of MetS observed was central obesity in 77 patients (63%), followed by hypertension in 39 patients (32%). Central obesity, hypertension, elevated FBS, and low HDL-C were more prevalent in females, with the latter showing statistical significance (P = 0.007) (Figure 2). All the parameters of MetS, except low HDL-C, were more prevalent in LP patients with mucosal involvement than in those without mucosal lesions. The prevalence of elevated FBS was notably higher in patients with mucosal involvement (41% vs. 18%; P = 0.015) (Figure 3).

Figure 2. High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol)

Figure 3. Lichen Planus)


LP is a common, chronic inflammatory papulosquamous disorder encountered in dermatological practice. Although its etiopathogenesis is not well understood, several potential pathogenetic mechanisms have been proposed, indicating that LP may serve as a reliable external marker of underlying immune and metabolic dysfunction 4 , 6 , 23 , 24 .

Our study was conducted on 123 patients of LP attending the outpatient department in a tertiary care hospital in eastern India. Females outnumbered males to a small extent, with the maximum number of patients aged 40–59 years. These findings were comparable to most other Indian studies, such as those by Garg et al. and Ireddy et al. 3 , 23 . Morphologically, the predominant type of skin lesion was classical LP, and the predominant type of oral lesion was the reticular type. Similar findings have been reported by other authors 15 , 17 .

The prevalence of MetS in the general population in various parts of India ranges from 11% to 41% 25 . A large community-based survey from eastern India reported the prevalence to be 33.5% overall 26 . Interestingly, the prevalence of MetS among LP patients in our study was in the same range as that reported in the general population. However, according to a recent systematic review, LP patients have a significantly higher prevalence of MetS (approximately twice) compared with the general population 27 .

As mentioned in Table 4, studies from across the world have reported variable prevalence of MetS in LP, ranging from 6% to 48% 4 , 9 , 10 , 14 - 19 . The observed variation may be due to differences in study settings, sample sizes, patient selection, population genetics, dietary habits, physical activity levels, and MetS diagnostic criteria. The sample size in our study was more than most similar studies from our country, making our observations more significant.

Study Sample Size Metabolic Syndrome (%)
Arias-Santiago et al., 2011 4 100 27
Baykal et al., 2015 10 79 26.6
Kuntoji et al., 2016 9 50 6
Kurian et al., 2017 14 40 45
Hashba et al., 2018 15 70 35.7
Okpala et al., 2019 16 90 18.9
Geetharani et al., 2019 17 113 19
Singla et al., 2019 18 100 43
Daye et al., 2020 19 98 48
Present study 123 31
Table 4. Comparison of prevalence of metabolic syndrome in lichen planus (LP) patients in previous studies

In our study, the mean age of LP patients with MetS was significantly higher than that in those without MetS. A Nigerian study by Okpala et al. reported similar findings, showing participants with LP and MetS to be significantly older than LP patients without MetS 16 .

Krishnamoorthy et al. found the prevalence of MetS in patients of oral LP to be 27.27% 11. A significantly higher prevalence of MetS was reported in LP patients with mucosal involvement by Baykal et al. (34.5 vs. 8.3%; P = 0.032) 10 . Hashba et al. and Daye et al. also reported a higher frequency of MetS in patients with oral involvement than those with isolated cutaneous lesions, although not statistically significant 15 , 19 . This was corroborated by the findings in our patients, with the prevalence of MetS being higher in patients with mucosal involvement than those without it, although insignificantly. Similarly, we found oral, genital, and nail involvement to be more common among LP patients with MetS. Contrary to this, Okpala et al. reported oral involvement to be more common in patients without MetS 16 .

Baykal et al. reported a significantly longer duration of LP in patients with insulin resistance—a primary feature of MetS 10 . Similarly, in the study by Hashba et al., the mean duration of LP in patients with MetS was slightly higher than those without it 15 . Conversely, in our study, the mean duration of LP in patients with MetS was lower than those without it. This may be due to the fact that only newly diagnosed LP patients were taken into account, while relapsing and treatment-resistant chronic cases, in whom chronic inflammation and the associated metabolic derangement are likely to exist more frequently, were excluded from our study.

The high prevalence of central obesity and hypertension noted in our study can be explained by similar findings from a community-based survey done in eastern India by Prasad et al., suggesting an overall high prevalence of these abnormalities in the general population 26 . Central obesity showed a consistently high prevalence among LP patients in other similar studies from our country 14 , 15 . The frequencies of hypertension and hypertriglyceridemia in our patients were also comparable with those reported by Singla et al. and Hashba et al., respectively 15 , 18 . However, compared to both these studies, hyperglycemia and low HDL-C were relatively less common in our patients 15 , 18 .

Out of 62 patients suffering from oral LP, 17 (27.4%) had type 2 diabetes mellitus, and 11 (17.7%) had impaired fasting glucose levels in a study by Romero et al. 28 . Lopez-Jornet et al. also reported a high prevalence of diabetes in oral LP 29 . Hashba et al. found increased FBS in 59% of patients with oral LP, compared to 52.6% of patients with skin LP 15 . In keeping with these findings, our study revealed a significant association between elevated FBS and the presence of mucosal lesions. This implies that underlying pathomechanisms may link mucosal involvement in LP to the occurrence of insulin resistance in these patients.

Our study had a few limitations. There was no control group, so the strength of the association between LP and MetS could not be determined. Also, as it was a cross-sectional study, so the directionality of the association could not be assessed, for which long-term prospective studies are required. Although the sample size was larger than most similar studies from our country, it could not be increased further due to limited time and resources, resulting in very few statistically significant correlations. Therefore, larger case-control studies are recommended to determine any association of MetS with LP and its various types, including mucosal LP.


Based on our study findings, routine screening for metabolic derangement should be considered in LP patients, especially in older patients and females. The presence of mucosal lesions could also serve as a guide to indicate the presence of metabolic abnormalities, especially hyperglycemia. Early detection and prompt treatment of these risk factors may go a long way in preventing such patients' subsequent development of cardiovascular disorders and diabetes mellitus.


We convey our sincere gratitude to Prof. Gautam Banerjee for his support and guidance in conducting this study.

Conflict of interest

None declared.


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