One morning Shauna woke up with a large patch of pink, raised skin near her stomach. It didn't really bother her, so she didn't say anything about it. She hoped the rash would go away in a few days. But 2 weeks later it was still there, and a bunch of other small, scaly spots had broken out across her chest and abdomen. So she told her mom about it.
Shauna and her mom went to see her doctor. He examined Shauna and told her she had a skin rash called pityriasis rosea.
Pityriasis rosea is a temporary skin condition that's common in teens and young adults. It's a pink or gray, scaly skin rash that can last for 4 to 8 weeks, and sometimes months. The rash usually starts with one big patch on the chest, abdomen, thighs, or back. After a couple of weeks, it usually spreads to other areas. The rash may itch (although about half of the people who get pityriasis rosea don't have any itching).
The rash is not contagious and when it goes away, it usually leaves no trace.
Medical experts aren't really sure what causes pityriasis rosea. Some suspect that it's caused by a virus, but scientists have yet to prove that. It is more common in the spring and fall.
People ages 10-35 and pregnant women are more likely to get pityriasis rosea, but it can happen at any age and to people of all skin colors.
Most people who get pityriasis rosea have no symptoms before the rash appears. Some people feel tired, have a sore throat, swollen glands, or a headache a few days before the rash develops.
The rash typically starts with one large spot called a herald patch. The herald patch is usually round or oval and it may be raised and feel scaly. In people with light skin, the patch will be pink or red. In people with darker skin, there may be a variety of colors ranging from violet to brown to gray.
The herald patch may be the only sign of pityriasis rosea for the first 2 to 3 weeks. As the rash progresses, though, people who have it usually get many smaller spots across the torso and on the arms and legs. (Most people don't get pityriasis rosea on the scalp, palms, or soles.) These smaller patches are usually oval shaped and often form a pattern on the back that looks like a Christmas tree.
Most cases of pityriasis rosea go away in 4 to 8 weeks without any treatment. Others can last for 12 weeks or longer. If you're worried about a rash on your skin that doesn't go away after a few weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor.
To help stop itching, doctors often prescribe hydrocortisone or other ointments. Oatmeal baths can relieve itching. Some people also find it helps to take over-the-counter allergy syrups.
In severe cases doctors recommend light therapy for pityriasis rosea. This can be done through a process called ultraviolet B (UVB) therapy available at a dermatologist's office. Sometimes just getting a moderate amount of sunlight can help treat the rash. Watch out for sunburn, though.
Reviewed by: Anoop K. Palta, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015
|American Academy of Dermatology Provides up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.|
|Vitiligo Vitiligo is a loss of skin pigment that causes white spots or patches to appear on the skin. It's not medically dangerous, but it can affect a person's appearance. Find out more.|
|Eczema Eczema is a common skin problem among teens. If you have eczema, read this article to find out more about it and how you can deal with the skin stress.|
|Ringworm Ringworm isn't a worm at all - it's the name for a type of fungal skin infection. The good news is that ringworm is easy to treat.|
|Molluscum Contagiosum The name sounds dramatic, like a Harry Potter spell. Luckily, molluscum contagiosum isn't a big deal. Find out what to do about it in this article for teens.|
|Lyme Disease Lyme disease can be treated if it's caught early. So read this to find out what causes it, how it's treated, and how to prevent it.|
|Poison Ivy About 60% to 80% of all people get a reaction to poison ivy. If you're one of them, check out these tips on what to do and how to avoid poison ivy.|
|Acanthosis Nigricans Acanthosis nigricans, or AN, is a darkening and thickening of the skin that can be a sign of certain other medical conditions. Find out more.|
|Staph Infections Staph bacteria can live harmlessly on many skin surfaces. But the bacteria can get into wounds and cause an infection. Get the details in this article for teens.|
|Tips for Taking Care of Your Skin Sometimes it may seem like your skin is impossible to manage, especially when you find a huge zit on your nose or a cold sore at the corner of your mouth. Here are ways to prevent and treat common skin problems.|
|Scabies Scabies is a skin infection caused by tiny mites that burrow into the top layer of human skin to lay their eggs. Learn how scabies is spread, how to avoid it, and how doctors treat it.|
|Erythema Multiforme Erythema multiforme is a rash that appears as red, target-shaped ("bulls-eye") patches or sores on the skin. Find out what causes it - and what to do - in this article for teens.|
|Impetigo Impetigo is a skin infection caused by fairly common bacteria. Read this article to learn how to recognize it and what to do about it.|
|Hives (Urticaria) Hives cause raised red bumps or welts on the skin. They're pretty common and usually not serious. Find out what to do about hives in this article for teens.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.