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Pityriasis rosea


Pityriasis rosea is a common type of skin rash seen in young adults.


Pityriasis rosea is believed to be caused by a virus. It occurs most often in the fall and spring.

Although pityriasis rosea may occur in more than one person in a household at a time, it is not thought to spread from one person to another.


Attacks most often last 4 to 8 weeks. Symptoms may disappear by 3 weeks or last as long as 12 weeks.

The rash starts with a single large patch called a herald patch. After several days, more skin rashes will appear on the chest, back, arms, and legs.

The skin rashes:

  • Are often pink or pale red
  • Are oval in shape
  • May be scaly
  • May follow lines in the skin or appear in a "Christmas tree" pattern
  • May itch
Exams and Tests:

Your health care provider can usually diagnose pityriasis rosea by the way the rash looks.

Rarely, the following tests are needed:

  • A blood test to be sure it is not a form of syphilis, which can cause a similar rash
  • A skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis

If symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment.

Gentle bathing, mild lubricants or creams, or mild hydrocortisone creams may be used to soothe irritation.

Antihistamines taken by mouth may be used to reduce itching. You can buy antihistamines at the store without a prescription.

Moderate sun exposure or ultraviolet (UV) light treatment may help make the rash go away more quickly. However, you must be careful to avoid sunburn.

Outlook (Prognosis):

Pityriasis rosea usually goes away within 6 to 12 weeks. It doesn't usually come back.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of pityriasis rosea.


Habif TP. Psoriasis and other papulosquamous diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby;2009:chap 8.

Pityriasis rosea. Alvero R, Ferri FF, Fort GG, et al, eds. In: Ferri FF, ed. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2014:section I.

Review Date: 11/2/2014
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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