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Pityriasis rosea: Diagnosis and treatment

What if you're pregnant?

If you are pregnant or could be pregnant, tell your dermatologist.

doctor examining woman's arm

Pityriasis rosea causes a rash that will clear on its own, so it’s usually nothing to worry about. Still, it’s important to get diagnosed. It’s possible that the rash could be something other than pityriasis rosea. Also, if you’re pregnant, you may need close follow up.

Here’s what you can expect when you see a board-certified dermatologist for a diagnosis.

How do dermatologists diagnose pityriasis rosea?

A dermatologist will look at your rash and ask questions about your health. If you have a typical pityriasis rosea rash, a dermatologist can often diagnose you right away. To the trained eye, this rash is obvious.

During your appointment, it’s important to tell your dermatologist if you:

  • Could be pregnant

  • Have had an organ transplant

  • Take any medications

Some medications can cause a rash that looks like pityriasis rosea, so it’s important to rule this out.

Sometimes, testing is necessary to rule out another condition, such as an infection. When testing is necessary, your dermatologist may remove a bit of skin or order a blood test.

How do dermatologists treat pityriasis rosea?

If you have pityriasis rosea, the rash with go away without treatment. Some people see the rash disappear within 6 to 8 weeks, but it can take 5 months or longer for the skin to clear.

While you don’t need to treat the rash, some patients ask for treatment to take care of the following.

Itch relief: To treat the itch, a dermatologist may recommend:

  • An anti-itch lotion, such as hydrocortisone cream

  • Triamcinolone ointment

  • Antihistamine that you take

  • UVB phototherapy (light treatments that are given in a dermatologist’s office)

Dark spots: Once the rash clears, some people see dark spots on their skin where the rash once was. This is more common in people who have a darkly pigmented skin. Like the rash, these dark spots will go away on their own. Clearing can take 6 to 12 months.

When to call your dermatologist

The rash usually clears on its own, so most people don’t need a follow-up appointment with their dermatologist.

However, you should make an appointment to see your dermatologist if the:

  • Rash lasts longer than 3 months

  • Itch or other symptoms stay the same (or worsen) after you’ve had the rash for 2 months

Can you get pityriasis rosea again?

Many people develop pityriasis rosea once and never get it again. However, it’s possible to develop the rash more than once. In studies, between 2% and 3% of people develop the disease again. While unusual, one patient developed pityriasis rosea once a year for 5 years in a row.

How to feel more comfortable while you have the rash

Until the rash goes away, at-home self-care can help you feel more comfortable. To see what dermatologists recommend, go to Pityriasis rosea: Self-care.

Getty Images

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.

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