How to Treat Pityriasis Rosea

pityriasis roseaSymptoms and Treatment of Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a rash that is common in young adults between 10 and 35 years old. It is also, for an unknown reason, more common during pregnancy. The rash lasts from four to eight weeks, on average, but can persist for as long as twelve weeks. Based on the way in which it manifests, it is believed to be caused by a virus, but the exact agent has not been identified. It is not transmitted directly from person to person, but can develop in multiple household members at the same time.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The rash is distinctive.

  • It begins with a “herald patch”, often on the trunk, which is pink or tan, round or oval, and has a scaly border. It is this scaly, bran-like nature of the patch that gives the condition its name, after “pityron”, the Greek word for bran.
  • Five to ten days after the appearance of the herald patch, on average, a more generalized rash of smaller lesions erupts. They often form a Christmas tree pattern on the back, radiating from the spinal column along the lines of cleavage.
  • Although the trunk is the most common area for the rash to appear, it is occasionally found on the arms or face. The rash is typically the only symptom, and recurrence is rare, occurring in about two percent of patients.
  • There is no scarring and marks fade within months following clearing of the rash.

Diagnosis is usually easily made on the basis of the distinctive rash. However, a syphilis test is typically performed to rule out this more serious condition, as the rash it produces in its secondary stage can look similar. A physician will also differentiate pityriasis rosea from tinea corporis, tinea versicolor, drug reactions, and psoriasis. The herald patch often resembles ringworm, and so may be confused for that condition in the early stage. Although prescriptions for treatment are rarely needed, the rash should be seen by a dermatologist to obtain a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment of Pityriasis Rosea

Because the causative agent is unknown, there is no cure or direct remedy. Treatment therefore focuses on relieving pain or itching of the lesions. Hydrocortisone or menthol creams or gels and over-the-counter oral anti-histamines may be used. In extreme cases when itching is severe, oral steroids may be prescribed. Exposing the rash to sunlight – while taking precautions against sunburn – often hastens healing. Lukewarm water should be used for bathing, as hot water may worsen the rash.

There are a number of different dermatological conditions that affect the human body. They are often harmless, but can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying disease state, so it is important to visit a physician for a correct diagnosis. Pityriasis rosea is a mild, self-limiting rash which is not transmitted from person to person. It occurs most often in young people and pregnant women and, once experienced, does not recur. There is no treatment, but symptomatic relief can be provided if itching is problematic.

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