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What is Pityriasis Rosea?

Pityriasis Rosea is a rather common skin disease in which round or oval, scaling pink patches develop mainly on the trunk of the body, upper arms, and thighs. In many cases the eruption begins with a single scaling patch (commonly called the "herald patch"), followed 1 - 2 weeks later by development of the widespread rash. The herald patch resembles ringworm, and thus is often confused with it. Pityriasis Rosea most commonly occurs in older children and teenagers but can appear at any age. It often occurs in seasonal epidemics during the Spring and Fall, but may develop as an isolated case at any time.

What causes Pityriasis Rosea?

The cause of Pityriasis Rosea is not known. Because of its tendency to occur in seasonal epidemics and because of its rather predictable course, it is thought to be caused by a viral infection. If the disease is contagious at all, it is only slightly so, since multiple cases occurring at the same time within families are seen only very rarely.

What is the natural course of Pityriasis Rosea?

Pityriasis Rosea lasts from 6 - 12 weeks and then disappears leaving no scars. Since many patients are first seen in the early stage of their disease, their condition may appear to worsen considerably before it begins to improve. Typically, the eruption will peak in about 2 weeks and slowly diminish over the following month. Usually the face, forearms, and hands are not heavily involved, though there are exceptions. In most persons the condition is not particularly uncomfortable or inconvenient.

Naturally, you should contact your doctor if your condition becomes much worse or if it does not seem to follow the pattern described above.

How is Pityriasis Rosea treated?

No limitation of activities is required. You do not need to stay home. Treatment is for relief of symptoms only and does not alter the overall course of the disease. Sometimes the rash is itchy. In that case, a prescription anti-itch cream or lotion to be applied to the uncomfortable areas may be provided to patients. Scrubbing the affected areas with soap or a wash cloth or the use of very hot water for bathing or showering will generally worsen the itching of Pityriasis Rosea. These should be avoided.


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