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Pityriasis Rosea

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Pityriasis rosea facts

  • Pityriasis rosea begins as a single, large pink patch found on the trunk of the body called the "herald patch."
  • The herald patch is followed one to two weeks later with a profusion of smaller scaling pink spots on the torso.
  • Pityriasis rosea is mildly itchy in 50% of cases and clears spontaneously in an average of six to nine weeks.
  • Pityriasis rosea is sometimes accompanied by mild, flu-like symptoms.
  • Pityriasis rosea has no long-lasting health effects and is not overtly contagious.
  • It is unusual for an individual to have a second episode of the disease.
  • Pityriasis rosea typically occurs in healthy young adults.

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a common viral disease that usually affects individuals between 10-35 years of age. The rash typically lasts six to nine weeks, rarely extending longer than 12 weeks. Once a person has pityriasis rosea, it generally does not recur in their lifetime.

Pityriasis rosea characteristically begins as an asymptomatic single, large pink, scaly plaque called the "herald patch" or mother patch, measuring 2-10 centimeters. The herald patch is a slightly scaly dry pink to red plaque which appears on the back, chest, or neck and has a well-defined, scaly border.

One to two weeks following the initial appearance of the herald patch, those affected will then develop many smaller pink spots across their trunk, arms, and legs. The second stage of pityriasis rosea erupts with a large number of oval spots, ranging in diameter from 0.5 centimeter (size of a pencil eraser) to 1.5 centimeters (size of a peanut). The individual spots form a symmetrical "Christmas tree" pattern on the back with the long axis of the ovals oriented in the "Lines of Blaschko" (invisible skin lines of embryonic origin). This rash is usually limited to the trunk, arms, and legs. Pityriasis rosea usually spares the face, hands, and feet.

Picture of pityriasis rosea on the torso
Picture of pityriasis rosea on the torso; photo courtesy of Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/18/2017


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