Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a common skin disease causing a rash that appears as pink patches on the skin and occurs most often in people between 10 and 35 years old. The rash usually clears on its own without treatment, but can last from several weeks to several months. While most people have no permanent marks as a result of the disease, darker skinned patients sometimes develop flat brown spots that eventually fade.

Signs and Symptoms

Pityriasis rosea usually develops with the following signs and symptoms:

  • Mother patch: The first sign of this conditions is a single pinkish patch on the back or chest, called a “herald” or “mother” patch, which may be large and feel scaly.
  • Daughter patches:Within a week or two, more, smaller oval shaped patches appear, often on the chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs and sometimes on the neck, face, and elsewhere. If many patches appear, they may form a pattern on the back that often looks like a Christmas tree.
  • Itch: About half (50%) of those with pityriasis rosea will develop itching that may worsen when the skin becomes heated, such as when working out or taking a hot bath or shower.
  • Aching and fatigue: Occasionally, patients may feel tired, achy and slightly ill.

Frequently, patients mistake the patches for ringworm and apply anti-fungal medications which are not effective because pityriasis rosea is not caused by a fungus. Nor is the condition the result of bacterial infection or allergy. In fact, the cause is unknown though some researchers have suggested the cause may be a type of virus, however, pityriasis rosea does not seem to be contagious.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A dermatologist can usually recognize pityriasis rosea by examining the rash, but because it can sometimes look like ringworm or a rash caused by certain medications, such as antibiotics, ‘water’ pills or heart medication, your doctor may order tests on blood or skin samples to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment may include both oral and topically applied medications to relieve itching. Soothing medication lotions may be prescribed as well. In addition, your dermatologist may recommend lukewarm, rather than hot baths and avoiding strenuous activity that can aggravate the rash. Ultraviolet light treatments provided by your dermatologist may also be helpful. Occasionally, anti-inflammatory medications, such as corticosteroids may be necessary to promote healing.

Pityriasis rosea is not a dangerous skin condition, but rather a very common one that is usually mild. Mild cases may not need treatment and even the most severe cases respond quickly to proper treatment under the care of a dermatologist. In most patients the rash never returns after treatment.