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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(1):94

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a scaly, reddish-pink skin rash. (Say: pit-ih-rye-ah-sis row-see-ah) It is most common in children and young adults.

If you get this skin condition, you may feel like you have a cold at first. Then, a single scaly red spot may appear on your back or stomach. This is called a “herald patch.” Smaller spots will develop on your body days to weeks later. The rash may itch badly. If the rash is on your back, it may have the shape of a Christmas tree.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is uncertain. Some doctors believe that pityriasis rosea is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Certain medicines also can cause this rash. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious, and people with this rash do not have to be kept away from other people.

What conditions look like pityriasis rosea?

The rash of pityriasis rosea can look like eczema, ringworm, or psoriasis. Infection with syphilis also can cause a similar rash. If your doctor wonders if you might have syphilis, he or she will order a blood test.

How long does pityriasis rosea last?

Pityriasis rosea usually lasts one to three months. Let your doctor know if the rash or itching lasts longer than three months.

How is pityriasis rosea treated?

The rash usually goes away on its own. No treatment can cure it, but medicine can relieve your itching. Your doctor might have you use antihistamine pills, a steroid cream, calamine lotion, or zinc oxide cream. Sometimes people with pityriasis rosea have to take steroid pills.

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