A 10-Year Review of Otic Lichen Planus: The Mayo Clinic Experience

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Lichen planus is an autoimmune inflammatory dermatosis that typically affects the skin but can also involve the stratified squamous epithelium of the external auditory canals and tympanic membranes. Here we report our experience with the clinical presentation, diagnosis, and management of otic lichen planus.


We retrospectively reviewed medical records from January 1, 2001, through May 31, 2011, of patients with a diagnosis of otic lichen planus. Nineteen cases were identified (mean age at diagnosis, 57 years; 15 women). The most common concerns were persistent otorrhea and hearing loss. Other symptoms included plugging, pruritus, tinnitus, pain, and bleeding. The mean symptom duration was 4.0 years (n = 13). Most patients responded well to topical tacrolimus within several months. One patient had a dramatic positive response to rituximab.

Conclusions and Relevance

Otic lichen planus can lead to persistent hearing loss and should be considered in the differential diagnosis of relentless otorrhea and external auditory canal stenosis. In our experience, topical tacrolimus is the best primary treatment, but alternative therapies could be instituted in severe cases. Early recognition of the nonspecific symptoms of otic lichen planus may lead to prompt treatment and avoidance of irreparable late sequelae.

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