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Pityriasis Rosea

Last updated Dec. 22, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

James Heilman,MD

Pityriasis Rosea is a benign, skin disorder characterized by the presence of skin rashes.

What are the other Names for this Condition? (Also known as/Synonyms)

  • Pityriasis Circinata et Maculata
  • Pityriasis Rosea Gibert

What is Pityriasis Rosea? (Definition/Background Information)

  • Pityriasis Rosea is a benign, skin disorder characterized by the presence of skin rashes
  • It is a condition in which the skin rashes appear in the beginning with a herald patch - a single, oval-shaped patch on the chest, followed by smaller rashes after 2 weeks
  • Pityriasis Rosea generally affects individuals between 10-35 years of age and occurs most often during fall and spring season
  • The exact cause of the condition is not known, but it is linked to a viral infection
  • Mild cases requires no treatment, although the application of corticosteroids and antihistamines on the rashes can help control itching and redness
  • The disorder has a very good prognosis; the skin lesions generally resolve with no long-term complications

Who gets Pityriasis Rosea? (Age and Sex Distribution)

  • Although individuals of all ages and gender may be affected by Pityriasis Rosea, it is mostly seen in children, teens, and young adults 10-35 years old
  • Women are more susceptible to this disorder than men
  • The condition is observed worldwide; no racial or ethnic predilection is noted

What are the Risk Factors for Pityriasis Rosea? (Predisposing Factors)

The risk factors associated with Pityriasis Rosea are:

  • Children and young adults in the 10-35 age group category
  • Female gender

It is important to note that having a risk factor does not mean that one will get the condition. A risk factor increases ones chances of getting a condition compared to an individual without the risk factors. Some risk factors are more important than others.

Also, not having a risk factor does not mean that an individual will not get the condition. It is always important to discuss the effect of risk factors with your healthcare provider.

What are the Causes of Pityriasis Rosea? (Etiology)

  • Although the exact cause for Pityriasis Rosea is not known, it is believed that the rashes could be triggered by certain viral infections (such as human herpes virus type 6)
  • Pityriasis Rosea is not a contagious condition

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Pityriasis Rosea?

The common signs and symptoms that occur with Pityriasis Rosea include:

  • The herald patch: A single, large, oval-shaped patch that appears on the chest, abdomen, or back, followed by smaller lesions that develop within 2 weeks after the first rash appears
  • The skin rashes are pink or pale red, oval in shape, and may be itchy
  • The skin may be scaly
  • The rashes follow lines of the skin, or appear in a Christmas tree like-pattern

How is Pityriasis Rosea Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of Pityriasis Rosea includes:

  • Through and careful examination of the skin rash: In most cases, a diagnosis of Pityriasis Rosea can be made by a skin examination only
  • Skin biopsy: An examination of a tissue sample under the microscope by a pathologist. This is required in cases where the diagnosis is in doubt and cannot be made through a physical exam alone

Many clinical conditions may have similar signs and symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform additional tests to rule out other clinical conditions to arrive at a definitive diagnosis.

What are the possible Complications of Pityriasis Rosea?

Complications of Pityriasis Rosea are very rare, but may include:

  • Severe itching
  • Brown spots remain as leftover scars on the skin

How is Pityriasis Rosea Treated?

The treatment of Pityriasis Rosea involves:

  • Mild cases may not require any treatment
  • Corticosteroids that are available in the form of ointments and creams, can be applied to ease the itching sensation and redness
  • Diphenhydramine, an antihistamine drug, can also be used to help with itching
  • Antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir, may help in reducing the duration of Pityriasis Rosea
  • Phototherapy: Standing in sunlight and exposing the rashes to heat, may help in fading away the rashes more quickly

How can Pityriasis Rosea be Prevented?

Currently, there are no known measures to prevent Pityriasis Rosea. Preventive activities aim at reducing the effect of the symptoms and these include:

  • Having a bath in lukewarm water
  • Taking an oatmeal bath
  • Applying calamine lotion the rashes to ease itching sensations
  • Wearing cotton or silk clothing is helpful
  • Gentle, mild soaps shall be used; deodorant soaps shall be avoided

What is the Prognosis of Pityriasis Rosea? (Outcomes/Resolutions)

  • The prognosis of Pityriasis Rosea is very good. The condition lasts only for few weeks or at the most 6 months
  • The skin disorder generally resolves completely on its own, without the presence of any long-term complications

Additional and Relevant Useful Information for Pityriasis Rosea:

  • Pityriasis alba is a common, benign, chronic skin disorder generally occurring in children and teenagers
  • Pityriasis rubra pilaris is a benign, chronic skin disorder in which the skin becomes red, swollen, rough, and dry, affecting any individual

What are some Useful Resources for Additional Information?

References and Information Sources used for the Article:

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: May 27, 2015
Last updated: Dec. 22, 2018