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Pityriasis rosea: Treatment, symptoms, advice & help

About pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis is a common and benign skin ailment characterized by the appearance of a single, large skin rash followed by a generalized rash later. The rash lasts for about six to eight weeks and does not show any recurrence.

Pityriasis rosea: Incidence, age and sex

Pityriasis rosea is commonly encountered in individuals between the ages of 10 and 35 years. Young adults and children are especially prone to this skin ailment. Infants or elderly individuals are rarely affected with pityriasis rosea. The incidence is slightly higher in women as compared with men.

Signs and symptoms of pityriasis rosea: Diagnosis

Pityriasis rosea is characterised by appearance of a single oval rash on the chest or trunk. This rash is termed as ‘herald patch’ since it heralds the beginning of the disease. It is followed by appearance of multiple such rashes on trunk, arms, thighs and legs, one or two weeks later. The skin rash is itchy in nature and the itchiness may increase with physical exercise, hot showers and emotional stress. Other associated features include high temperature, headache, joint pain, nausea and loss of appetite.

Detailed history and clinical examination can easily lead to its detection. No investigations are generally required to confirm the diagnosis. However in cases of doubt, biopsy (microscopic evaluation of a small part of the affected skin) may be done to rule out other skin afflictions.

Causes and prevention of pityriasis rosea

Several factors have been postulated in the causation of pityriasis rosea. Bacterial respiratory infection or viral infection (human herpes virus 6 and 7) may trigger this skin ailment. Alternatively medications like bismuth, gold, penicillamine, ketotifen have also been known to cause pityriasis rosea in a few individuals. Fortunately, this skin disorder is not contagious.

Pityriasis rosea: Complications

There are no apparent health complications of pityriasis rosea which is a self-limiting disease and resolves within a few weeks.

Pityriasis rosea: Treatment

Pityriasis rosea, in most individuals is self-limiting and mostly resolves on its own. Symptomatic relief of itching may be achieved by oral anti-allergic medication or steroid ointments. It is advisable to avoid soaps since that may cause increased irritation. Moreover moisturising the skin adequately with lotions may prevent dryness and subsequently reduce the itchiness of the rash. Phototherapy with ultra violet rays may be needed in occasional individuals in whom the rash is persistent. Fortunately, the skin rash does not leave behind any skin scarring after its resolution and its recurrence rate is also relatively uncommon.