Pityriasis Rosea

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a mild, but common, skin condition that is characterized by scaly, pink, inflamed skin. The condition can last from four to eight weeks but usually leaves no lasting marks.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is not known, but it is likely caused by a virus. It usually occurs in children, adolescents, and young adults (more than 75 percent of people with the rash are 10 to 35 years of age.) In addition, pityriasis rosea is more common in spring and fall.

What are the symptoms of pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea usually starts with a pink or tan oval area (sometimes called a herald or mother patch) on the chest or back. The main patch is usually followed (after a few weeks) by smaller pink or tan patches elsewhere on the body, usually the back, neck, arms, and legs. The scaly rash usually lasts between four to eight weeks and will often disappear without treatment.

Each child may experience the symptoms differently. Common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Aches
  • Itching

The symptoms of pityriasis rosea may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always consult a physician for a diagnosis.

How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

Pityriasis rosea is usually diagnosed with a medical history and physical examination of the child. The rash of pityriasis rosea is unique, and the diagnosis is usually made on the basis of a physical examination. In addition, the child's physician may order the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Skin biopsy-the removal of some of the diseased skin for laboratory analysis. The sample of skin is removed after a local anesthetic is administered.

What is the treatment for pityriasis rosea?

Specific treatment for pityriasis rosea will be determined by a physician based on:

  • The child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • Extent of the rash
  • The child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the rash
  • Child or parent’s opinion or preference

There is no cure for pityriasis rosea, and the infection usually goes away on its own. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms associated with the condition, such as itching. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment may include one, or more, of the following:

  • Medicated lotions and creams (to soothe the itching)
  • Medications by mouth (to soothe the itching)
  • Cool baths with or without oatmeal (to soothe the itching)
  • Ultraviolet exposure (under a physician's supervision)
  • Cool compresses (to soothe the affected skin)
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Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Health System continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.

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