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DERMATOLOGY :: Viral Skin Infections

Pityriasis Rosea

What is pityriasis rosea?

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

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is not known, but it is commonly believed to be caused by a virus. It is usually seen in children, adolescents, and young adults. More than 75 percent of people with the rash are 10 to 35 years of age.

The condition is more prevalent 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 couple of 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 disappear without treatment.

The following are other common symptoms of pityriasis rosea. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • aches
  • itching

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

How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

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

  • 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.

Treatment for pityriasis rosea:

Specific treatment for pityriasis rosea will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the rash
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the rash
  • your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for pityriasis rosea is to relieve symptoms associated with the condition, such as itching. There is no cure for pityriasis rosea. The condition will resolve spontaneously. Treatment will be determined by your child's physician based on the severity of the condition and 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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It is important to remember the health information found on this website is for reference only not intended to replace the advice and guidance of your healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.
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