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Pityriasis Rosea

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a mild, but common, skin condition. Characterized by scaly, pink, inflamed skin, the condition can last from one to three months and usually leaves no lasting marks.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is not known, but it is commonly believed to be caused by a virus or bacteria. Some patients may have a cold before the rash. It is usually seen in children, adolescents, and young adults. Most people with the rash are 10 to 35 years of age.

The condition is more prevalent in spring and fall.

What are the symptoms of pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea usually starts with a pink or tan oval area (sometimes called a herald or mother patch) on the chest, stomach, or back. The main patch is usually followed (after a couple of weeks) by smaller pink or tan patches elsewhere on the body--usually the back, neck, arms, and legs.

The following are other common symptoms of pityriasis rosea. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Aches

  • Itching, sometimes severe

The symptoms of pityriasis rosea may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

Pityriasis rosea is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination. The rash of pityriasis rosea is unique, and the diagnosis is usually made on the basis of a physical examination. In addition, your doctor may order the following tests to help aid in the diagnosis:

  • Blood tests. These are done to rule out other conditions that might resemble pityriasis rosea. 

Treatment for pityriasis rosea

Specific treatment for pityriasis rosea will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the rash

  • Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the rash

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for pityriasis rosea is to relieve symptoms associated with the condition, such as itching. Treatment may include:

  • Medicated lotions and creams (to soothe the itching)

  • Medications by mouth (to ease the itching)

  • Cool baths with or without oatmeal (to soothe the itching)

  • Ultraviolet exposure (under a doctor's supervision)

  • Cool compresses (to soothe the affected skin)

There is no cure for pityriasis rosea. The condition will usually resolve on its own in about one to three months. Normally, it does not return.