Pityriasis rosea is a type of skin rash. Classically, it begins with a single red and slightly scaly area known as a "herald patch". This is then followed, days to weeks later, by a pink whole body rash. It typically lasts less than three months and goes away without treatment. Sometime a fever may occur before the start of the rash or itchiness may be present, but often there are few other symptoms.
The cause of pityriasis rosea is not certain, but its clinical presentation and immunologic reactions suggest a viral infection as a cause. Some believe it to be a reactivation of herpes viruses 6 and 7, which cause roseola in infants.
The overall prevalence of PR in the United States has been estimated to be 0.13% in men and 0.14% in women. It most commonly occurs between the ages of 10 and 35. It is more common in spring.
PR is not viewed as contagious, though there have been reports of small epidemics in fraternity houses and military bases, schools and gyms.
The condition usually resolves on its own, and treatment is not required. Oral antihistamines or topical steroids may be used to decrease itching. Steroids do provide relief from itching, and improve the appearance of the rash, but they also cause the new skin that forms (after the rash subsides) to take longer to match the surrounding skin color. While no scarring has been found to be associated with the rash, scratching should be avoided. It's possible that scratching can make itching worse and an itch-scratch cycle may develop with regular scratching (that is, you itch more because you scratch, so you scratch more because you itch, and so on). Irritants such as soaps with fragrances, hot water, wool, and synthetic fabrics should be avoided. Lotions that help stop or prevent itching may be helpful.
Direct sunlight makes the lesions resolve more quickly. According to this principle, medical treatment with ultraviolet light has been used to hasten resolution, though studies disagree whether it decreases itching or not. UV therapy is most beneficial in the first week of the eruption.
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