Pityriasis Rosea: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Updated on March 2022

Pityriasis rosea is a skin condition that is characterized by red or pink, peeling rashes that appear mainly on the trunk. This rash gradually spreads and lasts for 6 to 12 weeks.  

In most cases, there is one main rash surrounded by several smaller ones. It usually happens once in the lifetime, in the spring our autumn, although many people can present with yearly rashes around the same time. 

Treatment of pityriasis rosea should be guided by a dermatologist. Treatment goals are aimed at relieving any associated symptoms, however the rashes usually resolve on their own overtime without any scarring. 

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What causes it 

Although there is no specific reason why pityriasis rosea occurs, it may be triggered by a virrus that causes a mild skin reaction. This virus is not transmissible from person to person, however, as pityriasis rosea in itself is not contagious. 

Women are more prone to develop pityriasis rosea, especially pregnant women or women under the age of 35. However, this rash can appear in anybody at any age. 

Main symptoms

The most common symptoms of pityriasis rosea is the appearance of a pink or red rash that measures between 2 and 10 cm which is surrounded by several smaller rashes. They are often itchy and start to emerge over a span of 2 days. 

In some cases, other people may present with symptoms such as: 

  • Fever over 38ºC (or 100.4ºF)
  • Stomach ache, headache or joint pain
  • General malaise and loss of appetite 
  • Rounded red spots throughout the body 

Skin changes should be inspected and assessed by a dermatologist to rule out other conditions and initiate appropriate treatment.

How to treat it

Pityriasis rosea disappears on its own after 6 to 12 weeks, however if you experience itching or discomfort, the dermatologist may recommend treatment with: 

  • Moisturizing creams, to help speed-up healing and soothe irritation 
  • Corticosteroid creams (like hydrocortisone or betamethasone), to relieve itching and skin swelling 
  • Allergy medications (like hydroxyzine or chlorphenamine) which are used when itching interferes with sleep 

If symptoms do not improve with treatment, the doctor may advise additional treatment with UV-B rays, which are applied directly to the affected skin. 

In some people, the rash may persist for over 2 months until it disappears, although it will usually not leave any scarring or marks.