Navigate Up

Full Library - A-Z Index


Print This Page

Pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a common type of skin rash seen in young adults.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Pityriasis rosea is believed to be caused by a virus. It occurs most often in the fall and spring.

Although pityriasis rosea may occur in more than one person in a household at a time, it is not thought to spread from one person to another.

Symptoms

Attacks most often last 4 - 8 weeks. Symptoms may disappear by 3 weeks or last as long as 12 weeks.

The rash starts with a single large patch called a herald patch. After several days, more skin rashes will appear on the chest, back, arms, and legs.

The skin rashes:

  • Are often pink or pale red
  • Are oval in shape
  • May be scaly
  • May follow lines in the skin or appear in a "Christmas tree" pattern
  • May itch

Signs and tests

Your health care provider can usually diagnose pityriasis rosea by the way the rash looks.

Rarely, the following tests are needed:

  • A blood test to be sure it is not a form of syphilis, which can cause a similar rash
  • A skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis

Treatment

If symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment.

Gentle bathing, mild lubricants or creams, or mild hydrocortisone creams may be used to soothe irritation.

Antihistamines taken by mouth may be used to reduce itching. You can buy antihistamines at the store without a prescription.

Moderate sun exposure or ultraviolet (UV) light treatment may help make the rash go away more quickly. However, you must be careful to avoid sunburn.

Expectations (prognosis)

Pityriasis rosea usually goes away within 6 - 12 weeks. It doesn't usually come back.

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of pityriasis rosea.

References

Habif TP. Psoriasis and other papulosquamous diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 8.

Updated: 10/14/2012

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com