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Pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a harmless rash that usually starts with an oval-shaped patch of scaly skin followed by a widespread rash.

Symptoms of pityriasis rosea include an oval patch of scaly skin followed by a widespread rash of smaller scaly patches. It can sometimes be itchy.

Pityriasis rosea usually gets better on its own within 12 weeks. Symptoms can be treated with moisturising creams, steroid creams and antihistamines.

It's not exactly clear what causes pityriasis rosea, but it's not contagious.

Read more on the NHS website.

Symptoms of pityriasis rosea include an oval patch of scaly skin followed by a widespread rash of smaller scaly patches. It can sometimes be itchy.

Symptoms of pityriasis rosea

Feeling unwell

Some people feel unwell for a few days before they get the rash, with symptoms such as a headache, fever and joint pain.

The herald patch

Picture of the herald patch.

A single pink or red oval patch of scaly skin, called the "herald patch", usually appears at least 2 days before a more widespread rash develops.

It ranges in size from 2cm to 10cm. It can appear on your tummy, chest, back or neck, and less often on the face or scalp, or near your genitals.

Widespread rash

Picture of widespread rash.

Up to 2 weeks later, a more widespread rash develops, which may continue to spread over the following 2 to 6 weeks.

It's made of smaller raised scaly patches that usually range in size up to 1.5cm. Most people get many patches on their chest, back, tummy, neck, upper arms and upper thighs. The face is usually unaffected.

The rash is not painful, but can be itchy.

In light-skinned people, the patches are usually a pinkish-red. In dark-skinned people, the patches can sometimes be grey, dark brown or black.

Both the herald patch and rash usually last for 2 to 12 weeks, although they can last for up to 5 months.

After the rash has gone, you may have some darker or lighter areas of skin. These should return to normal within a few months and will not leave permanent scarring.

Read more on the NHS website.

Pityriasis rosea usually gets better on its own within 12 weeks. Symptoms can be treated with moisturising creams, steroid creams and antihistamines.

Medical treatments

Pityriasis rosea usually clears up without treatment within 12 weeks. Treatment is not needed unless you experience discomfort and itching.

Possible treatments for pityriasis rosea include:

  • emollients – creams that moisturise and soothe the skin; some emollients can be used as soap and are often recommended because normal soap can irritate the rash; you can buy these over the counter from most pharmacists
  • steroid creams or ointments – such as hydrocortisone and betamethasone cream; they're prescribed by a GP and can reduce swelling and relieve itching
  • antihistamines – if you're having trouble sleeping because of the itching, a GP may prescribe an antihistamine that'll make you feel sleepy, such as hydroxyzine or chlorphenamine
  • UVB light therapy – if other treatments do not work, you may be referred for UVB light therapy

Read more on the NHS website.

It's not exactly clear what causes pityriasis rosea, but it's not contagious.

Read more on the NHS website.