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Pityriasis rosea: Overview

What is pityriasis rosea?

This condition causes a rash that will clear on its own. The first sign of this rash is often a large oval patch on the skin, which is followed by many smaller patches or tiny bumps.

Contagious: While more than one person in a household may have this rash at the same time and outbreaks can occur, pityriasis rosea is not thought to be contagious.

Pronounced: pit-uh-rye-uh-sis row-zee-ah

When pityriasis rosea develops

Pityriasis rosea usually develops in healthy people who are 10 to 35 years old.

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3 things dermatologists recommend if you think you have pityriasis rosea

While the appearance of this rash can be concerning, it’s harmless. Pityriasis rosea clears on its own. For this reason, dermatologists generally do not recommend treating it.

Here’s what dermatologists do recommend:

  1. See a healthcare provider for a diagnosis. It’s important to make sure that you have pityriasis rosea. Another condition, such as ringworm and syphilis, can cause a rash that can be mistaken for pityriasis rosea. Both ringworm and syphilis require treatment to prevent worsen and long-lasting effects on your health. A board-certified dermatologist can tell you what’s causing the rash and provide treatment if needed.
  2. Understand that you will have pityriasis rosea for a while. The rash will clear on its own; however, this takes times. While some people see the rash go away in 6 to 8 weeks, it’s possible to have the rash for 5 months or longer.
  3. Make yourself comfortable while you have the rash by following a few simple tips. While treatment is often unnecessary, self-care is important. Making a few simple changes can:

    • Avoid an intensely itchy rash

    • Relieve an itchy rash

    • Help you feel more comfortable

    Here’s what dermatologists recommend you do at home while you have the rash, Pityriasis rosea: Self-care.

Are you at risk for getting pityriasis rosea?

Most people who have pityriasis rosea are young and healthy. The disease usually develops between 10 and 35 years of age. It’s also more common during pregnancy.

What if you're pregnant?

If you develop pityriasis rosacea while pregnant, be sure to tell your obstetrician.

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While pityriasis rosea usually appears in young, healthy people, others get it, too. Here’s what the research shows about people who develop this condition.

Age: Doctors have diagnosed pityriasis rosea in patients whose ages range from 3 months to 83 years.

Where you live: People around the world get pityriasis rosea. It’s found in every climate, from the hottest to the coldest. Though, the disease seems more common in places with a moderate climate.

Skin color: How the rash appears on your skin tends to vary with skin color.

If you have darkly pigmented skin, pityriasis rosea tends to begin with one large patch, followed by a rash of small bumps. Both the rash and bumps tend to be dusky violet to brown. You’re also more likely to develop the rash on your face.

If you have a light complexion, you’re more likely to develop one large patch followed by many smaller patches, all of which tend to be pink to salmon colored.

To see how this rash often appears on the skin, go to: Pityriasis rosea: Signs and symptoms

Getty images

Blauvelt A. “Pityriasis rosea.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:362-6.

Drago F, Broccolo F, et al. “Pityriasis rosea: An update with a critical appraisal of its possible herpesviral etiology.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2009;61:303-18.

Julapali M, Travers JB. “Papulosquamous skin eruptions.” In: Fitzpatrick JE, et al. Dermatology Secrets Plus (5th edition). Elsevier. China, 2016:67-8.

Kunin A. "Pityriasis rosea: Relief for a little-known rash." In: The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual. Simon & Schuster. United States, 2005:197-201.

Wood GS, Reizner GT. “Other papulosquamous disorders.” In: In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (fourth edition). Mosby Elsevier, China, 2018:170-2.