Pityriasis Rosea Symptoms and Signs
Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.
Doctor's View on Pityriasis Rosea Symptoms and Signs
Comment by Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD
Pityriasis rosea is a benign, common, self-limited (goes away on its own) rash of older children and young adults. It often (but not always) begins with a so-called "herald patch," which is a red, slightly scaly 0.5-1 inch oval area of red skin on your torso; this is soon followed by many similar but smaller lesions. Thankfully, those afflicted are generally well, though they may complain of mild itching. In typical cases, the long axis of the oval lesions is oriented in a characteristic "V" pattern on your back and an "M" pattern in front, sparing your face and extremities. To some holiday-oriented physicians, the back appears to have lesions in a Christmas tree pattern. The scaling of each individual ½ inch red lesion often forms as a "collarette" on the inside edge. The disease typically lasts about three months and is unlikely to recur. The first month it reaches its maximum extent, the second month it is stable, and during the third month, it resolves so you must be patient and let the condition run its course.
Those with darker skin are likely to have a more exuberant (sometimes with small vesicles instead of scaling) and itchy eruption. Since there is no cure and the condition spontaneously remits, the most important factor is an accurate diagnosis in order to distinguish this condition from other treatable diseases. Traditionally, the appearance of secondary syphilis is often confused with pityriasis rosea so a simple blood test is used to differentiate the two. A skin biopsy occasionally can also lend support to the diagnosis of a variety of other clinically similar problems.
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Last Editorial Review: 8/13/2013 6:57:43 PM