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Pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea symptoms

Pityriasis rosea is a fairly common skin condition causing red raised scaly patches on the skin across the body.

The rash can be severely itchy in many cases.

photo of pityriasis rosea on torso

Around half the people with pityriasis rosea will start to feel generally unwell a week to several days before the rash appears. These symptoms may include fever, indigestion or stomach upset, a loss of appetite, headache and joint pain.

As these symptoms go away, the first patch of pityriasis rosea is seen on the skin. This can be up to 10 cm across and is known as the herald patch.

This usually appears on the abdomen, chest or neck, but can affect the face, scalp or genital area.

Some days to two weeks later a secondary rash appears. These smaller rash patches often form a Christmas or fir tree shape on the back and a V-shape on the chest.

The herald patch and secondary rash usually disappear within twelve weeks but can last for around six months.

Depending on the original skin colour, some darker or lighter areas of skin may last for some months, but there should not be any scars.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is not yet known. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious and does not spread from person to person. Many experts believe pityriasis rosea is caused by a response to a previous viral infection.

How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

Seek medical advice if the itchiness is troublesome or the symptoms last for longer than five months or if you have concerns.

A referral to a dermatologist, blood tests, skin tests or a skin biopsy may be arranged to confirm the diagnosis or to rule out other conditions affecting the skin.

How is pityriasis rosea treated?

Pityriasis rosea usually gets better on its own within around 12 weeks. The symptoms of itching may be relieved with treatments including emollient moisturising and soothing skin creams, topical corticosteroids creams or ointments or antihistamines.

If these treatments don’t help, UV-B light therapy may be recommended.

Other treatments used include the antiviral medication aciclovir and the antibiotic erythromycin.

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 19, 2017

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