Pityriasis rosea : Causes, symptoms and treatments


Pityriasis rosea is a rash that usually appears on the chest, back or abdomen. It often begins as a small oval or circular spot, but with time, it could spread into a larger area of up to 4 inches across. This skin condition can affect people of all age groups, but is most common in those between 10 and 35 years of age. The rashes may be accompanied by itching and can take around 10 weeks to heal completely.


The exact reason for the occurrence of Pityriasis rosea is not actually known, but it’s associated with the human herpes virus of the type 6 and/or 7. These are not the viruses that cause oral and genital herpes. There could be a number of factors support the transmission of the virus. However, the primary cause is not clearly known. The skin condition is not known to be contagious through contacts. In most cases, people who came in direct contact with the affected people did not notice any infection. The viruses may, however, spread through respiratory contact.


Generally, pityriasis rosea is not accompanied by any other symptom than the appearance of the rash itself. Sometimes, the rash is also accompanied by mild itchiness. This happens especially if the affected person takes a hot shower right after exercise. Itchiness is also known to increase with stress and in some rare cases, it is accompanied by a sore throat, aching, decreased appetite, fatigue, and nausea. If the person enjoys a good health, pityriasis can occur without any symptoms.


Pityriasis rosea hardly gives rise to any complication. If neglected, they can lead to severe itchiness and darkening of skin or brown spots on the areas where the rashes had previously appeared. However, if it occurs in a pregnant woman, it can lead to severe complications. It has been estimated that every eight out of sixty-one women experience a miscarriage in case of pityriasis rosea. In some women, the skin condition could also lead to premature delivery. If it has been caused due to the reactivation of herpes 6/7 due to certain drug usage, it can lead to hypersensitivity syndrome.


Pityriasis rosea is not a grave skin condition and if left untreated, it can clear off all by itself in about 12 weeks. However, there are some treatment options that relieve the discomfort and itchiness while also speeding up the healing. The common treatments include

  • Emollients

These are creams that soothe and moisturize the skin. These can also be used in place of soaps since normal soaps can irritate the affected areas of the skin. These products can be purchased without any medical prescription from almost any pharmacist.

  • Steroid creams and ointments

These include the hydrocortisone and betamethasone ointments. These have to be strictly prescribed by doctors and are very effective in providing relief from swelling and itchiness.

  • Antihistamines

Antihistamines are for intense itchiness. These are generally prescribed if the itchiness is severe enough to disrupt sleep thus leading to sleep deprivation.

If other treatments do not work, the affected skin can also be treated with the help of UVB light therapy.

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