Pronounced: pit-IH-rye-ah-sis row-SEE-ahEn Español (Spanish Version)
Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash that occurs mainly in children and young adults. The scaly, reddish-pink rash first appears on the back, stomach, or chest. The rash can then spread to the neck, arms, and legs. Pityriasis rosea usually occurs in the spring and fall.
This condition may last for several weeks. Although the lesions usually go away on their own after 2 to 3 months, you should contact your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms below.
The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown, although research suggests that it may be caused by viruses or certain medications, such as antibiotics or heart medications.
A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
The following factors increase your chance of developing pityriasis rosea:
- Age: 10 to 35 (although the condition can occur at any age)
- Time of year: the condition most often occurs in the spring and fall
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to pityriasis rosea. These symptoms may be caused by other health conditions. If you experience any one of the symptoms below, see your physician.
- Feeling ill—You may feel like you are getting a cold just before the rash appears.
Having a “herald patch”—Typically this is the first lesion to appear.
- It is a large, oval, scaly lesion that typically occurs on the back, stomach, armpit, or chest.
- After several days, more lesions then appear on the body.
- Lesions found on the back tend to form a “Christmas tree” pattern.
- The scale of pityriasis rosea is often described as “trailing scale." It forms inside of the leading pink edge of the the lesions.
Mild to severe itching of the lesions—The rash of pityriasis rosea is typically not itchy, but itching may occur in some patients.
- Itching worsens when the body overheats (eg, during physical activities or after taking a hot shower).
- Having skin redness or inflammation
- Feeling tired and achy
If symptoms last for more than three months, contact your doctor.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam, including an examination of your skin. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (a dermatologist). A dermatologist can usually diagnose pityriasis rosea by examining your skin.
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Tests may include the following:
- Blood tests
- Skin scrape
- Skin biopsy—removal of a sample of skin tissue from the lesion to test for pityriasis rosea
© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.
There is no cure for pityriasis rosea. The rash will usually go away on its own after several weeks. The symptoms of pityriasis rosea, such as itching, can be relieved using different treatments. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Medications to relieve itching and inflammation caused by pityriasis rosea include:
- Antihistamine pills
- Steroid pills
- Steroid creams or ointments
- Calamine lotion
- Avoid physical activities that can raise body temperature and worsen itching.
- Avoid hot baths or showers to prevent the itching from worsening. Oatmeal baths may also soothe the itching.
- Exposure to sunlight or treatment with artificial ultraviolet light (by a doctor) may speed the healing process. But, be careful to avoid sunburn.
Because the cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown, there is no way to prevent it. It is not contagious and rarely reoccurs after you have had it. There are no permanent marks left after the lesions disappear. However, some people with dark skin may experience skin discoloration that usually fades with time.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
BC Health Guide
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Medical encyclopedia: pityriasis rosea. Medline Plus website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000871.htm . Accessed August 12, 2005.
Pityriasis rosea. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/public/Publications/pamphlets/PityriasisRosea.htm . Accessed August 12, 2005.
Pityriasis rosea. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/808.xml . Accessed August 12, 2005.
Pityriasis rosea. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/pityriasis_rosea.html . Accessed August 12, 2005.
Stulberg DL. Pityriasis rosea. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20040101/87.html . Accessed August 12, 2005.
Last reviewed February 2008 by Ross Zeltser, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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