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Pityriasis Rosea

How to Say It: pit-IH-rye-ah-sis row-SEE-ah

Definition

Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash. The rash is scaly and reddish-pink. It may first appear on the back, stomach, or chest. It may then spread to the neck, arms, and legs.

Causes

The cause of this problem is not known. It may be triggered by a viral infection.

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in people who are 10 to 35 years of age. Pregnant women may be at higher risk.

Symptoms

A person often has cold-like symptoms before the rash appears. These may be:

  • Lack of energy
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Sore throat

The rash starts with one large, oval, and scaly patch on the back, stomach, armpit, or chest. In time, a person may also have:

  • Rose-colored patches that may have scaly edges
  • Mild to severe itching
  • Itching that gets worse when the body overheats, such as with exercise or after a shower
  • Skin redness or swelling

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the skin. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.

If the diagnosis is unclear, you may need to see a doctor who treats the skin. A sample of the skin may be tested. This can be done with a biopsy.

Skin Biopsy
Skin proceedure

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Treatment

The rash usually goes away on its own in about six weeks. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms during this time. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as warm oatmeal baths and using moisturizer
  • Medicines to ease itching, such as:
    • Antiviral medicines
    • Antibiotics
    • Antihistamines
    • Corticosteroids
  • Ultraviolet light therapy to speed healing

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.

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
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Pityriasis rosea. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/pityriasis_rosea.html. Accessed March 5, 2021.

Pityriasis rosea. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/pityriasis-rosea. Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed March 5, 2021.

Pityriasis rosea. Family Doctor—American Academy Family Physician website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/pityriasis-rosea. Accessed March 5, 2021.

Pityriasis rosea: an overview. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/pityriasis-rosea. Accessed March 5, 2021.

Villalon-Gomez JM. Pityriasis Rosea: Diagnosis and Treatment. Am Fam Physician. 2018 Jan 1;97(1):38-44.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 3/5/2021