Pityriasis Rosea

symptoms of pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a benign non-contagious skin disease. It can occur at any age, but is more common in persons between the ages of 10 and 35 years. The rash typically lasts from several weeks to several months. It heals without scarring. There are usually no permanent marks left on the skin as a result of pityriasis rosea, although some darkly pigmented persons may have long lasting flat brown spots.

Pityriasis rosea is a common, distinctive skin eruption of unknown cause. There are few symptoms. It is usually mild, but fortunately even the most severe cases respond quickly to proper treatment.

Symptoms Of Pityriasis Rosea

  • The condition typically begins with a large single patch of skin on the chest or back that is usually scaly and is called a 'herald' or 'mother patch.'
  • Within a week or two, a few to many smaller pink patches with occur over the trunk and to a lesser degree, over the skin of the arms and legs. Lesions may also occur on the neck and rarely on the face. The later-appearing spots are usually smaller than the herald patch, but may still be mistaken for ring worms.
  • The patches often display a characteristic pattern over the back resembling the outline of an evergreen tree with drooping branches. Sometimes the disease can cause a more sever skin reaction with more irritation. Itching occurs in about half the patients with pityriasis rosea and can at times be quite severe, particularly when the patient becomes overheated. Occasionally there may be other symptoms, including tiredness and aching.
  • The rash usually fades and disappears within six weeks after peak activity, but can sometimes last much longer.
  • Various environmental or physical factors can cause transient worsening or even re-appearance of the rash.
    E.g. physical exertion (running or bathing in hot water)
    In some cases, the patches appear in two or more waves with subsequent waves appearing at intervals of up to several weeks after the first. Additional waves sometimes appear for many months.

What Causes Pityriasis Rosea

treating pityriasis rosea

The cause of pityriasis rosea is not known. It definitely is not caused by a fungus or bacterial infection, and it is not caused by anything that a person has eaten. It also is not due to any known type of allergic reaction, either internal or external. Pityriasis rosea is not a skin manifestation of any type of internal disease such as diabetes, cancer or kidney disease.

Some dermatologists have said that a virus may cause this rash. The reason for this is the fact that the disease is more common with young people, usually occurs only once and occasionally makes a person feel slightly ill. This theory has definitely not been proven and exposure to someone with pityriasis rosea essentially never causes another person to develop a rash.

Treating Pityriasis Rosea

Treatment may include external and internal medications for itching. Various types of soothing medicated lotions and lubricants may be prescribed to combat the rash. Individuals with pityriasis rosea should take lukewarm, rather than hot baths. Strenuous activity may aggravate the rash and should be discouraged.

Ultraviolet light treatments are also very helpful. These treatments can be administered every several days in the dermatologist's office under the supervision of experienced personnel. Occasionally even anti-inflammatory medications such as systematically administered cortico-steroids may be necessary to promote resolution of the rash. Another important feature of treatment includes reassurance to the patient by the physician that pityriasis rosea is not a dangerous skin condition.

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