Lichen planus is a dermatologic disease of unknown etiology characterized by keratotic plaques on the skin. Many patients also harbor white lesions of the oral mucosa. The literature contains numerous reports of lichen planus-like lesions evolving in conjunction with the administration of a variety of pharmacologic agents. It is difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish such lesions from one another. The present study evaluated the epithelial and basement membrane thickness, mast cells (intact cells and degranulated cells subepithelially) and the presence or absence of blood vessels in oral lichen planus and oral lichenoid lesions. The evaluation was done using the periodic acid-schiff (PAS) and toluidine blue staining techniques on 20 cases each of oral lichen planus and oral lichenoid lesions and 5 control specimens of normal buccal mucosa. The results showed an increased number of degranulated mast cells in areas of basement membrane degeneration, increased vascularity and increased PAS-positive basement membrane thickness in oral lichen planus as compared with oral lichenoid lesions. Reduced epithelial thickness was found in oral lichen planus. The present study emphasizes the importance of these parameters in differentiating oral lichen planus from oral lichenoid lesions using special staining techniques.
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