Pityriasis Rosea

Overview

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea (say: "pit-ih-rye-ah-sis row-see-ah") is a scaly, reddish-pink skin rash. It is most common in children and young adults, and it usually occurs in spring and fall.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of pityriasis rosea?

If you get this skin condition, you may feel like you have a cold at first. You may feel congested, have a sore throat and a cough. Then, a single scaly red spot may appear on your back or stomach. This is called a "herald patch." Smaller spots will develop on your body days to weeks later. These spots may itch badly. If the rash is on your back, it may have the shape of a Christmas tree.

Causes & Risk Factors

What causes pityriasis rosea?

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes pityriasis rosea. Some doctors believe that pityriasis rosea is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Certain medicines can also cause this rash. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious, so people who have this rash do not have to be kept away from other people.

Diagnosis & Tests

What conditions look like pityriasis rosea?

The rash of pityriasis rosea can look like eczema, ringworm or psoriasis. Infection with syphilis also can cause a similar rash. If your doctor thinks you might have syphilis, he or she will order a blood test to find out.

Treatment

How long does pityriasis rosea last?

Pityriasis rosea usually lasts 1 to 3 months and usually never comes back. Let your doctor know if the rash or itching lasts longer than 3 months.

How is pityriasis rosea treated?

The rash usually goes away on its own. No treatment can cure it, but medicine can help relieve the itching. Your doctor might suggest antihistamine pills (one brand name: Benadryl), a steroid cream, calamine lotion or zinc oxide cream to relieve the itching. Sometimes people who have pityriasis rosea have to take steroid pills to clear up their rash.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • What is causing my rash?

  • Do I have pityriasis rosea?

  • How can I make myself feel better?

  • Should I take an antihistamine?

  • What treatment is best for me?

  • If the rash and itching don’t go away after three months, what should we do?

  • How long will the rash last?

  • Can I do something to make my child feel more comfortable?

  • Could I have something other than pityriasis rosea?

  • Is there a cream or ointment I should use on the rash?

Citations

  • Pityriasis Rosea by DL Stulberg, M.D., and J Wolfrey, M.D.( 01/01/04, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20040101/87.html)