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This rash normally affects patients from 10 to 35 years old, although it can affect people at any age. The duration of the rash varies from weeks to months. Typically there are no permanent marks or scarring as a result of this skin condition, although some darker-skinned patients may develop flat brown spots that are long-lasting but do eventually fade. Though pityriasis rosea most commonly occurs in the spring and fall it can occur at any time of year.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
One of the first symptoms of Pityriasis is a large, pink, scaly, spot on the back or chest, which is called a "herald" patch. This patch may be mistaken for ringworm, although antifungal creams will not help because it is not a fungus.
Within one or two weeks patients develop more pink patches on the arms, back, chest, and legs. These patches can also be found on the neck, although they rarely affect the face. The patches are oval and can form a pattern over the back resembling the outline of a Christmas tree. Sometimes the disease can produce a very severe widespread skin eruption. About half the patients will experience some itching, especially when they are warm or over heated. Physical activities such as bathing in hot water, jogging or running can cause the rash to temporarily worsen or become more obvious. There may be other symptoms including fatigue and aching. While rash typically fades within six to eight weeks, in some cases it can last much longer.
The cause is unknown. Pityriasis rosea is it not caused by a fungus, bacteria, internal disease, or allergy. There is some recent evidence that suggests it may be the result of a virus because the rash resembles that of certain viral illnesses, and sometimes patients feel slightly ill for a short time prior to the rash appearing. However, this theory has yet to be proven or confirmed. It does not appear that pityriasis rosea is spread from person to person and normally only occurs once in a lifetime.
See your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis. Pityriasis rosea affects the neck, abdomen, chest, upper arms, back, and legs, but the rash can differ from patient to patient making the diagnosis difficult. The number and size of the spots may also vary, and on occasion the rash may be found in an unusual location such as the on the face, or lower body. This typically occurs in older patients. Fungal infections, such as ringworm, can resemble this rash. Reactions to some medications, such as antibiotics, "water pills," or heart medications can also look similar to pityriasis rosea. Your dermatologist may scrape the skin, order blood tests, or take a sample from one of the spots (skin biopsy), to be examined under a microscope to make the diagnosis.
Pityriasis rosea frequently requires no treatment and will go away by itself. However, treatment may include medications to treat the itching. Medicated lotions and lubricants may be prescribed to soothe the skin. Lukewarm rather than hot baths may be suggested. Ultraviolet (UV) light treatments given under the supervision of a dermatologist may be helpful. Sometimes, anti-inflammatory prescription medications such as corticosteroid may be necessary to stop itching or make the rash go away. Patients should be reassured that this disease is not a dangerous skin condition.
Remember that pityriasis rosea is a common skin disorder and is usually mild. Most cases usually do not need treatment and fortunately, even the most severe cases eventually go away.
We put academic qualifications, many years of combined experience, and training in a variety of special interest areas to work for your healthy, radiant skin. Our providers – Drs. Schachter, Hanna, Curtis, Abdulla, Pollack, and Taradash – welcome new patients for treatment at the Dermatology on Bloor practice on Park Road in Toronto. Our team is here to serve your needs