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Table of Contents 
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 442-443
Wickham striae: Etiopathogenensis and clinical significance

1 Department of Dermatology, Carolena Skin, Laser and Research Centre, Jalandhar, Punjab, India
2 Faculty of Dentistry, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication10-Sep-2011

Correspondence Address:
Silonie Sachdeva
Carolena Skin, Laser and Research Centre, Jalandhar, Punjab - 144 022
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.84739

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How to cite this article:
Sachdeva S, Sachdeva S, Kapoor P. Wickham striae: Etiopathogenensis and clinical significance. Indian J Dermatol 2011;56:442-3

How to cite this URL:
Sachdeva S, Sachdeva S, Kapoor P. Wickham striae: Etiopathogenensis and clinical significance. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Jul 3];56:442-3. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The term Wickham striae (WS) was coined by Louis Frédéric Wickham in the year 1895 and corresponds to fine white or gray lines or dots seen on the top of the papular rash and oral mucosal lesions of Lichen planus (LP), [1] also called as Lichen Ruber Planus.

   Pathogenesis of Wickham Striae Top

Various pathological changes have been cited for formation of WS. The first theory cited by Darier et al. in the literature attributes the appearance of the WS to increase in the granular cell layer in the epidermis. [2] Summerly et al. gave the explanation of focal increase in the epidermal activity for the formation of striae. [3] A third pathological factor suggested by Ryan for formation of WS is lack of dermal vessels in the area which acts as a contributing factor. [4] The histological confirmation of the WS can be done by India ink staining in which the ink is retained on the stratum corneum.

   Clinical Appearance of Wickham Striae Top

WS are seen as fine, white or grey lines on top of purple papular skin lesions of LP. Wickham, while originally describing them, noticed that these striae did not correspond to the scale on the surface of the papule as the striae were present on the non-scaly lesions too.

Similarly, it was observed that WS were noticeable on the lesions on which the scale had been removed. [2] It has however not been described in literature that at which stage of evolution of LP, the WS first appear. WS are noticeable in the mouth lesions also. In oral cavity, the WS appear in tree-like configurations or in the form of a lacy network, usually located bilaterally and are seen with greater frequency on the buccal mucosa. These lesions can also be observed on the lateral margin of the tongue, gingiva, and lips. [5]

WS are of special significance in the diagnosis of erosive form of oral LP, as this form may undergo malignant transformation.

   Identification of Wickham Striae Top

On skin, it is easier to spot WS if a thin layer of oil is applied to the surface of the top of the papular lesions. The handheld dermatoscope (Delta 10: Heine Optotechnik, Munich, Germany) with a fixed magnification of 10 helps in the clinical confirmation of WS. It discretely shows the reticular whitish pattern of striae along with capillaries surrounding the striae as radial, horizontally oriented red lines or red dots. [6] The recognition of WS by this technique has especially been found useful when psoriasis lesions coexist with LP. Since both the diseases present with superficial scaly papular, plaque type lesions, for beginners it can be confusing. In such cases, presence of WS is considered to be a pathognomonic sign of LP. Dermoscopy is a well-recognized tool for identification of WS by Indian authors also. [7]

   Wickham Striae in Pigmented Skin Top

WS are much more difficult to see and many times may not be visible at all in pigmented skin/skin of color. Also, the clinical picture of LP may differ from the classical one due to variations in morphology and configuration, or modifications of clinical features depending on the site of involvement. WS may not be clinically appreciated on lesions of LP when the patient has been previously taking treatment such as application of topical steroids or salicylic acid.

   Differential Diagnosis Top

  1. WS in oral LP may be simulated by atrophy and differentials include leukoplakia, frictional keratosis and oral lichenoid eruptions. Occasional lesions of LP in mouth are primarily erythematous, with very few white streaks, and these must be distinguished by biopsy from erythroplakia and erythroleukoplakia. [8],[9]
  2. WS in cutaneous lesions of LP may be mimicked by scaly lesions in the following skin diseases: [10]
    • skin lesions due to drug-induced photosensitivity (hydrochlorothiazide, hydroxychloroquine, and captopril)
    • psoriasis (plaque type/guttate)
    • discoid lupus erythematosus
    • lichen nitidus
    • pityriasis rosea
    • secondary syphilis
    • graft versus host disease
    • tinea corporis

   Conclusion Top

WS is an important diagnostic sign of LP and should always be looked for when confused or lesions coexist with similar scaly dermatosis.

   References Top

1.Steffen C, Dupree ML. Louis-Frédéric Wickham and the Wickham's striae of lichen planus. Skinmed 2004;3:287-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Rivers JK, Jackson R, Orizaga M. Who was Wickham and what are his striae? Int J Dermatol 1986;25:611-3.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Summerly R, Wilson Jones E. The Microarchitecture of Wickham's Stirae. Trans St. Jhon's Hosp Dermatol Soc 1964;50:157-61.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Ryan TJ. The direction of the growth of the epithelium. Br J Dermatol 1966;78:403-15.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Silverman S, Bahl S. Oral lichen planus update: Clinical characteristics, treatment responses and malignant transformation. Am J Dent 1997;10:259-63.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Vázquez-López F, Alvarez-Cuesta C, Hidalgo-García Y, Pérez-Oliva N. The handheld dermatoscope improves the recognition of Wickham striae and capillaries in Lichen planus lesions. Arch Dermatol 2001;137:1376.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Nischal KC, Khopkar U. Dermoscope. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2005;71:300-3.  Back to cited text no. 7
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
8.Rajendran R. Oral lichen planus. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2005;9:3-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Bricker SL. Oral lichen planus: A review. Semin Dermatol 1994;13:87-90.   Back to cited text no. 9
10. Boyd AS, Neldner KH. Lichen planus. J Am Acad Dermatol 1991;25:593-619.  Back to cited text no. 10


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