Pityriasis Rosea

What is Pityriasis Rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a skin disease that is characterised by a rash. It is quite common, and usually lasts for 6 to 8 weeks. In some cases, the rash will last longer than 8 weeks. It will often go away on its own, but sometimes can be itchy, so treatment may be needed. While people of all ages can get pityriasis rosea, it usually happens to individuals between ages 10 and 35, and often happens when a female is pregnant.  While there is not a known cause to the skin disease, it is not related to bacteria or fungi. Pityriasis rosea does not seem to be contagious, but it could be caused by a virus.

Pityriasis Rosea Symptoms

Many times a mother patch will appear when pityriasis rosea is developed. Some may experience a sore throat or a fever before this patch develops on the skin. The mother patch is a single patch on the skin, and will be seen by itself for about 2 weeks prior to any other symptoms. Some call this a “herald patch” as well. The mother patch can get rather large, and could be rather scaly. People who have light to olive colored skin will see the patch be pink or rose in colour. Those with darker skin tones will see a violet to dark gray color.

More patches will form on the skin within the next week or two. These patches are referred to as the “daughter patches”. These patches are smaller than the mother patches, and will form on the chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs most commonly. They could also form on the face and neck. The patches will be oval shaped. Many times the patches will form a Christmas tree shape on the back.  Patches can also develop in the mouth at this point. Skin can be itchy due to the rash, with about 50% of persons have itchy skin. At times, heat will make the itching worse. It is not uncommon for individuals to have only the mother patch or the daughter patches, but it is rare.


Pityriasis Rosea Diagnosis

Should you suspect that you have pityriasis rosea, have your dermatologist inspect your skin. Often times they will be able to diagnose the rash as pityriasis rosea right away, however, in certain cases, it can look like another skin rash or condition. Sometimes a dermatologist may have to perform tests on the skin to determine the exact skin condition present. Those skin tests could involve taking a sample of the skin or doing blood tests.

Pityriasis Rosea Treatment

If there is extreme itching, a dermatologist may prescribe medications for the itching. Corticosteroids can help to ease the itching and the redness from pityriasis rosea. Antiviral drugs can be given to reduce the amount of time pityriasis rosea lasts, usually by one to two weeks. Antihistamines can be used to reduce itching. They can be bought over the counter, however, in some cases, a dermatologist may need to prescribe stronger antihistamines if they are needed.

Exposure to natural light and artificial sunlight could also help with pityriasis rosea. This light can fade the rash. Do note that often times after the rash fades, brown spots can be left on the skin, especially if the skin tone is dark. These spots will fade over time.

If you do have pityriasis rosea, you will want to only take luke warm showers or baths, as the heat will tend to make the rash worse.  Take measures not to become overheated so the itching does not get worse.  Using calamine lotion on the rash will help to soothe it, as will taking an oatmeal bath.

4 replies
  1. Prescription for itching
    Prescription for itching says:

    I see you can get these in your mouth. What do they do for the itching in the mouth? Is there something that they prescribe to make the rash in the mouth go away? I would think that would be rather painful to have a rash that itched in the mouth. Surely you would not feel like eating or drinking because it would be such a bother.

  2. Calamine Lotion
    Calamine Lotion says:

    I am a huge fan of calamine lotion. I use it all the time for skin conditions. My daughter had Pityriasis rosea when she was 13 years old. The rash lasted for about a month. She had it in the summer, so it was very hot that year, so the rash always looked terrible. Hers was itchy as well. I just made sure that several times a day we used calamine lotion on her. And she was only allowed to take a short shower and it had to be warm, not hot like she likes it. It was the darnest thing to see the rash on her back actually look like a Christmas tree. I have never seen anything like that before. Very strange, and almost silly as well. When I took her to the doctor for this, he just examined her skin. No testing was done as he could tell right away that she had pityriasis rosea.

  3. Wonderuflll
    Wonderuflll says:

    Wonderful article here on pityriasis rosea. I suffered from this skin rash about 2 years ago. It took about 10 weeks for my rash to clear up. Just when I think that it was getting better, it would return on my body. I had the rash on my legs, chest and back, and also a few patches on my arms. I remember being at the county fair and my sister telling me my legs were getting burned. Nope, it was just the rash that was coming out full force due to the heat. I had the Christmas tree shape on my back. And my chest looked awful. Really red with the rash that I was not able to wear tank tops or any other lower cut shirts. And swimming during these 10 weeks was out of the question for me as it would have made my rash worse and also made me very self conscious. I found that oatmeal lotions and baths were a good friend of mine. I just tossed a few handfuls of oatmeal in my tub and then soaked for a bit. It was never super warm water, usually just Luke warm. That softened my skin and then when I got out I applied an oatmeal lotion. Those two things seemed to bring me the most relief.

    ROWENA OCHOA says:

    Thank you for posting. I’ve had this rash with sores and dry scaly patches for over 8 weeks and I’m 40. I have been around 2 kids in the last month who had hand foot and mouth disease and fifths disease. My rash started as itching all across my upper abdomen, stomach and lower abdomen. Spreading to my hips and and creases of my legs, Upper arms, butt, upper back and in my forearm creases are patches. The Herald patch showed up in January and the rash showed up in March. I thought that I was having a reaction to an IPL photofacial or to a series of liquid herbs that word for energy and hormone balancing. Based on what I read it sounds like I have some version of this. The itching is insane and I’ve had to take three antihistamines and a decongestant in order to not feel like I’m going to lose my mind. Getting a sunburn actually felt much better than having the rash and it seems to be slowly clearing.


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