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WHAT IS PITYRIASIS ROSEA?
Pityriasis rosea (pit-ih-RYE-as-sis ro-ZEA) is a common condition that causes patches of redness and a rash on the skin. These patches can look worrisome, but they are harmless.
Once it develops, the rash can last anywhere from 6 to 8 weeks before disappearing. While the rash may be itchy, it usually disappears without treatment. Your dermatologist can treat the rash if it lingers or if you are bothered by the itch. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious.
WHAT DOES PITYRIASIS ROSEA LOOK LIKE?
Pityriasis rosea tends to develop gradually. You may develop one oval patch on your skin, which is referred to as the “mother patch” or “herald patch.” If you are Caucasian or have olive-colored skin, this patch can be pink- to salmon- colored. If you have brown or black skin, the patch can be gray to dark brown.
The mother patch often forms on the chest or back and increases in size for about two weeks. This patch may look scaly and you may mistake it for ringworm, a fungal infection. Applying medicine that treats ringworm will not clear this patch.
Within a week or two of seeing the first patch, most people develop a rash, often called “daughter patches.” These patches are smaller and may appear anywhere on your skin. They are most common on the trunk, legs, and arms. Your skin may itch, especially if it becomes warm, such as during a workout or a hot shower.
You may see a few oval patches on your skin during the first two weeks and then never develop any additional daughter
patches. You may also just develop a rash and not the larger patches.
You also might feel ill when the original patches appear. You may feel extremely tired. Your muscles may ache. Other possible symptoms include sore throat, nausea, and mild fever.
WHO GETS PITYRIASIS ROSEA?
Researchers and dermatologists know that people of all ages and races get pityriasis rosea. Young people, however, are more susceptible. This skin disease usually develops between the ages of 10 and 35.
IS THIS RASH DANGEROUS DURING PREGNANCY?
If a woman develops pityriasis rosea during pregnancy, she should contact her obstetrician. In some cases, this rash can mean that a woman has a higher risk of premature delivery. Discuss any questions with an obstetrician.
HOW DOES A DERMATOLOGIST DIAGNOSE PITYRIASIS ROSEA?
A dermatologist often can diagnose pityriasis rosea by looking at your skin. In some cases, your dermatologist may order blood tests to distinguish from other conditions, or perform a biopsy, which is removal of a small amount of the affected skin to be looked at under a microscope. Doing this helps ensure that you receive an accurate diagnosis.
When you see your dermatologist about a rash, be sure to tell your dermatologist about all medicines that you are taking. Some people develop a rash that looks like pityriasis rosea when they take certain medicines.
HOW DOES A DERMATOLOGIST TREAT PITYRIASIS ROSEA?
Most patients do not need treatment. The rash often disappears within 6 to 8 weeks. If you also develop flu-like symptoms, those should disappear shortly after the first patches appear. No treatment is needed for these symptoms either.
If your skin is extremely itchy or the rash lingers, your dermatologist may recommend applying a steroid cream, or medicated ointment, to your skin. This medicine can help stop the itch and clear the rash. If you have widespread patches on your body or if you cannot find relief from itchy skin, your dermatologist may recommend more specific treatments.
WILL MY SKIN SCAR?
Pityriasis rosea usually clears without leaving scars or dark spots. Some people with dark skin see flat, brown spots after the rash clears. If your pityriasis rosea was on sun exposed skin, like the arms or neck, some dark spots may take months to fade. Your dermatologist can discuss treatment options with you for stubborn spots.
Although the rash does not cause scars, you can scar if you scratch so hard that you bleed. You can prevent scars by not scratching.
WILL I GET PITYRIASIS ROSEA AGAIN?
Most people only get pityriasis rosea once in their lifetime. The rash rarely returns.
HOW DO I CARE FOR PITYRIASIS ROSEA AT HOME?
While you are waiting for the rash to clear, your dermatologist may recommend that you avoid activities that cause you to overheat. Overheating often causes the rash to worsen.
Your dermatologist may also recommend that you apply a moisturizer every day. Talk with your dermatologist about the ingredients to look for in a moisturizer to apply to your skin.
A board-certified dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in treating the medical, surgical, and cosmetic conditions of the skin, hair and nails. To learn more about pityriasis rosea or to find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org or call toll free (888) 462-DERM (3376).
All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides
American Academy of Dermatology
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