96735 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Pityriasis Rosea

    Definition

    Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash. It occurs most often in children and young adults. The rash is scaly and reddish-pink. It may first appear on the back, stomach, or chest. The rash can then spread to the neck, arms, and legs.
    The rash may last for several months. It will usually go away on its own. Talk to your doctor if you have a widespread rash.

    Causes

    The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown. It may be caused by viruses or certain medicine, such as antibiotics or heart medications.

    Risk Factors

    Pityriasis rosea is more likely to occur in the spring and fall.

    Symptoms

    If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to pityriasis rosea. They may be caused by other health conditions. Symptoms associated with pityriasis rosea include:
    • Feeling ill—You may feel ill like you are getting a cold just before the rash appears.
    • Having a herald patch—often the first lesion to appear.
      • Large, oval, scaly patch that is often on the back, stomach, armpit, or chest.
      • Lesions found on the back tend to form a “Christmas tree” pattern.
    • More lesions that appear after several days.
    • Mild to severe itching of the lesions—not typically itchy, but may occur in some patients
      • Itching worsens when the body overheats. This may happen during physical activities or after taking a hot shower.
    • Skin redness or inflammation
    • Feeling tired and achy
    If symptoms last for more than three months, contact your doctor.

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders. A specialist can usually diagnose pityriasis rosea by looking at your rash.
    Some tests may be done to eliminate the possibility of other conditions. This rash may look like other skin disorders such as eczema , ringworm , syphilis , and psoriasis . These tests may include:
    • Blood tests
    • Skin scrape
    • Skin biopsy —removal of a sample of skin tissue from the lesion to test for pityriasis rosea
    Skin Biopsy
    Skin proceedure
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Treatment

    There is no cure for pityriasis rosea. The rash will usually go away on its own. Treatment may be able to relieve some of the symptoms, such as itching. Treatment options include the following:

    Medications

    Medications to relieve itching and inflammation caused by pityriasis rosea include:
    • Antihistamine pills
    • Steroid pills
    • Steroid creams or ointments
    • Calamine lotion

    Other Treatments

    • Avoid physical activities that can raise your body temperature. This can make itching worse.
    • Avoid hot baths or showers. Oatmeal baths may also soothe the itching.
    • Sunlight or medical treatment with artificial ultraviolet light may speed the healing process. Be careful to avoid sunburn.

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent pityriasis rosea. It does not spread from person to person. It is not likely to recur. This rash does not leave permanent marks. However, some people with dark skin may have some skin discoloration. This will usually fads with time.

    RESOURCES

    American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org/

    American Osteopathic College of Dermatology http://www.aocd.org/

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    The College of Family Physicians of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/

    References

    American Academy of Dermatology. Pityriasis rosea. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/public/Publications/pamphlets/PityriasisRosea.htm . Accessed August 6, 2012.

    American Family Physician. Pityriasis rosea. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/808.xml . Accessed August 6, 2012.

    American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Pityriasis rosea. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic%5Fdiseases/pityriasis%5Frosea.html . Accessed August 6, 2012.

    DynaMed Editorial Team. Pityriasis rosea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated January 2011. Accessed August 6, 2012.

    Revision Information

    • Reviewer: Michael Woods
    • Review Date: 09/2012
    • Update Date: 00/92/2012
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