Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash. The rash is scaly and reddish-pink. It may first appear on the back, stomach, or chest. The rash can then spread to the neck, arms, and legs.
The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown. It may be caused by viruses or a certain medication, such as antibiotics or heart medications.
Pityriasis rosea occurs most often in children and young adults. It is more likely to occur in the spring and fall.
Before a rash appears, the first symptoms may be similar to the common cold. They may include:
- Sore throat
- Joint pain
- Nausea and loss of appetite
When the rash appears, symptoms may include:
- A herald patch—large, oval, scaly patch that is often on the back, stomach, armpit, or chest. It is often the first lesion to appear.
- Rose-colored patches that appear after several days to 2 weeks that may have scaly edges.
- Patches found on the back tend to form a Christmas tree pattern.
Patches are not typically itchy, but mild-to-severe itching may occur.
- Itching worsens when the body overheats.
- This may happen during physical activities or after taking a hot shower.
- Skin redness or inflammation.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Pityriasis rosea can usually be diagnosed by looking at your rash. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist) if the rash is difficult to identify.
Testing is usually not needed, but your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested if the diagnosis is uncertain. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Skin scrape
- Skin biopsy
There is no cure for pityriasis rosea. The rash may last for several months. It will usually go away on its own.
Treatment may be able to relieve some of the symptoms, such as itching. Treatment options include the following:
Medications to relieve itching and inflammation caused by pityriasis rosea include:
- Antihistamine pills
- Steroid creams or ointments
- Calamine, zinc oxide, or other soothing lotions
- Antiviral medication
- Avoid physical activities that can raise your body temperature. This can make itching worse.
- Avoid hot baths or showers. Oatmeal baths may also soothe the itching.
- Sunlight or medical treatment with artificial ultraviolet light may speed the healing process. Be careful to avoid sunburn.
There is no known way to prevent pityriasis rosea. It does not spread from person to person. It is not likely to recur. This rash does not leave permanent marks. However, some people with dark skin may have some skin discoloration. This will usually fade with time.
American Academy of Dermatology
American Osteopathic College of Dermatology
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Pityriasis rosea. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/pityriasis-rosea. Accessed October 31, 2014.
Pityriasis rosea. American Family Physician website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/pityriasis-rosea.printerview.all.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed October 13, 2014.
Pityriasis rosea. American Osteopathic College of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aocd.org/skin/dermatologic_diseases/pityriasis_rosea.html. Accessed October 31, 2014.
Pityriasis rosea. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115956/Pityriasis-rosea. Updated August 20, 2015. Accessed September 27, 2016.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.