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Home :: Skin Disorders

Pityriasis Rosea - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Pityriasis rosea is a common skin disease. The exect cause is not known. It definitely is not caused by a fungus or bacterial infection. It also is not due to any known type of allergic reaction. This condition is not a sign of any type of internal disease. It usually begins as one large spot on your chest, abdomen or back and then spreads. The rash of pityriasis rosea often sweeps out from the middle of the body, and its shape resembles drooping pine-tree branches. It most often develops in the spring and the fall, and seems to favor adolescents and young adults. Pityriasis rosea is uncommon in those over 60 years old. It may last months longer when it occurs in this age group. Pityriasis rosea can affect members of any age. Although pityriasis rosea may occur in more than one person in a household at a time, it is not thought to be highly contagious. Pityriasis rosea clears up by itself in about six to twelve weeks. When clear, the skin returns to its normal appearance. It leaves no scars, although pale marks or brown discolouration may persist for a few months in dark skinned people.

Pityriasis rosea may be set off by a viral infection but it does not appear to be contagious. The pityriasis rosea rash is similar to the rash seen in other skin conditions, including ringworm of the skin, tinea versicolor, eczema, and psoriasis. Diagnosis can be difficult when only the herald patch is visible; the condition is often mistaken for ringworm or eczema at this time. Once the rash appears, diagnosis is generally clear. Exposing the rash to sunlight may make it go away more quickly. However, exposing your skin to the sun too long can result in sunburn and increase your risk of skin cancer. The rash usually goes away on its own. No treatment can cure it, but medicine can help relieve the itching. Treatment may include external and internal medications for itching. Aveeno oatmeal baths, anti-itch medicated lotions and steroid creams may be prescribed to combat the rash. For severe cases a few days of oral anti-inflammatory medications such as prednisone may be necessary to promote healing. For mild cases, no treatment is required as this disease is not a dangerous skin condition.

Causes of Pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea occurs most commonly in the fall and spring. It is believed to be caused by a virus. However, it is most common in females and those between the ages of 8 and 35. This condition is not a sign of any type of internal disease. Since it is neither contagious nor transmitted, there is no reason to avoid close or intimate contact when one has this eruption.

Common causes and risk factors of Pityriasis rosea:

  • A yet unidentified virus.
  • Drugs such as bismuth, barbiturates, captopril, gold.
  • Certain viral illnesses.

Signs and Symptoms of Pityriasis rosea

Sometimes the disease can cause a more severe skin reaction. A few days later, smaller similar scaly patches appear, scattered mainly on the trunk but may spread to the thighs, upper arms and neck. Some patients with this disease will have some itching that can be severe, especially when the patient becomes overheated. Occasionally there may be other symptoms, including tiredness and aching. The oval patches follow the line of the ribs like a fir tree. They have a dry surface and may have an inner circlet of scaling. Before the herald patch appears, you may feel tired and as though you have a cold. You may have a headache, nausea, sore throat, and loss of appetite.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Ithing of the lesions.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and fatigue.
  • Reduction in sweat gland activity.
  • Skin lesion or rash.
  • The clearance of acne.

Treatment for Pityriasis rosea

Although there is no cure for pityriasis rosea, in most cases the condition goes away by itself without any treatment. For more severe itching, stronger steroid creams may be prescribed. For itching that occurs mainly at night, oral antihistamines may reduce itching and make you drowsy enough to fall asleep more easily. Ultraviolet light treatments given under the supervision of a dermatologist may be helpful. Recently, both the antiviral drug Famvir and the antibiotic erythromycin have been claimed to produce healing in one to two weeks. For severe cases a few days of oral anti-inflammatory medications such as prednisone may be necessary to promote healing.

Treatment may include:

  • Aveeno oatmeal baths, anti-itch medicated lotions and steroid creams may be prescribed to combat the rash. Lukewarm, rather than hot, baths may be suggested.
  • Ultraviolet light treatment or phototherapy may shorten the duration of the condition and may be prescribed for extensive and persistent cases of pityriasis.
  • Sometimes people with pityriasis rosea have to take steroid pills to clear up their rash.
  • Corticosteroid creams may also be prescribed to relieve the itching.
  • New information suggests early treatment with aciclovir may speed up recovery of at least some cases of pityriasis rosea.
  • Apply a moisturizer or calamine lotion to the skin while it is damp.