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What Is Pityriasis and Who Gets It?
Pityriasis rosea causes a harmless pink or reddish rash that usually lasts six to eight weeks before fading. It can be itchy, but usually goes away without treatment. It’s not contagious, but can occur following a viral illness. You may notice an oval patch on your skin, often called a “mother patch.” This can vary in color to pink/salmon or gray to dark brown. These typically appear on the chest and back, and can look scaly (can be mistaken for ringworm or a fungal infection).
Within a week of this first patch, a larger rash often called “daughter patches” can appear. There are more common on the trunk, legs and arms. Your skin may itch, especially if it becomes warm from working out, taking a hot shower, etc. Pityriasis rosea can also develop in an inverse pattern affecting the skin folds (like the armpits and groin), face and neck. This is more common in children and those with darker skin.
People of all ages and races can get pityriasis rosea, but young people are at higher risk. This disease usually develops in those age 10 to 35. It’s also more likely to occur during pregnancy. If a women does develop pityriasis rosea during pregnancy, she should contact her obstetrician. In some cases, this can indicate a higher risk of premature pregnancy, neonatal hypotonia or even miscarriage. Discuss any questions with an obstetrician.
A board-certified dermatologist can diagnose pityriasis rosea by examining your skin. Blood tests or a biopsy may also be necessary. In a biopsy, a small amount of the affected skin will be removed to examine under a microscope. This helps ensure an accurate diagnosis. Tell your dermatologist any medications you may be taking too. Some people can develop a rash that looks like pityriasis rosea when they take certain medications.
In most cases, treatment won’t be needed. The rash should disappear within six to eight weeks on its own. But if your skin is very itchy or the rash continues to linger, a steroid or other medicated ointment may be recommended. This can help stop the itch and clear up the rash. Other treatment options can be recommended too, if widespread patches still occur or your itch won’t go away.
Pityriasis rosea typically doesn’t leave scars or dark spots. People with darker skin may develop flat, brown spots after the rash goes away. If the condition appeared on sun-exposed skin (like arms or neck), the spots may take longer to fade. Your dermatologist can assist with options to treat stubborn dark spots. Most people only get pityriasis rosea once in their lifetime, with the rash rarely returning.
Managing Pityriasis Rosea at Home
Your dermatologist may recommend using a moisturizer every day. They can recommend the right product that will be most effective for your situation, as well as products with certain ingredients to avoid.