Pityriasis rosea is a mild skin rash with a pink, scaly and inflamed appearance. The condition is quite common, and it is not serious. It is most common in young adults.
The rash usually lasts between 1-3 months and leaves no permanent marks. However, people with dark skin may notice lasting brown spots after the rash has healed.
Once it’s gone, it doesn’t usually come back.
What causes pityriasis rosea?
The cause of pityriasis rosea isn’t known but it’s thought to be caused by a virus or bacteria. It is probably not contagious.
Pityriasis rosea symptoms
The first sign is usually a circular or oval patch on your chest, stomach or back. The patch is usually pink or tan.
Over the next couple of weeks, smaller pink or tan patches appear on areas such as your back, neck, arms or legs. The pattern of these patches can look like drooping pine-tree branches.
You may also notice that you:
- feel tired
- have aches and pains
- are itchy, sometimes severely.
Diagnosis and treatment of pityriasis rosea
Doctors can usually diagnose the rash of pityriasis rosea just by looking at it.
Your doctor may take a scraping for testing or do a blood test to rule out other conditions.
Most treatments for pityriasis rosea aim to soothe your skin and relieve itching. They include:
- cortisteroid cream or ointment, which may also decrease redness
- cool baths, with or without oatmeal
- cool compresses
- spreading calamine lotion on the rash.
Antibiotics may help treat your rash and relieve the itching.
Antiviral drugs may decrease the time you have the rash by 1-2 weeks. It is very unusual for the rash to come back.
Natural or artificial sunlight can help fade the rash, but in some people this can cause lasting dark patches.
If you develop pityriasis when you’re pregnant then check with your doctor, as in rare cases it can lead to complications.
Last reviewed: March 2017