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Pityriasis rosea – what is it?

Among the more mysterious skin conditions you’ll find is pityriasis rosea. To dispel a bit of the mystery, we’ve put together a guide.

Pityriasis rosea is a fairly common skin condition that’s characterised by rash. Although generally fairly harmless, the symptoms of the condition can seem quite alarming.

Let’s try to put your mind at rest.

A man in his 40-ties with grey, styled hair looking at the camera and smiling.


While we know quite a lot about pityriasis rosea, there’s just as much that we’re still in the dark about. The big problem with pityriasis rosea is that scientists haven’t pinpointed the cause.

Pityriasis rosea is most often seen between the ages of 10 and 35, and it causes no lasting harm to those with the condition. We also know that it does not appear to be contagious.

It starts with a single large patch on the body, known as the herald patch.

This is followed by:

  • Small pink spots develop on the body, sometimes in a ‘Christmas tree’ pattern

  • It may be accompanied by mild flu-like symptoms, which bolster the claim that it is viral in nature

  • Patches appear on the front and back of the body, arms and legs

  • Sometimes patches spread to the neck, but rarely to the face

  • About half of those who have the condition will experience mild itching

Obviously, the big difference between dandruff and pityriasis rosea – aside from their cause – is placement. Where dandruff affects the scalp, pityriasis rosea affects the entire body except for the scalp.

Treating pityriasis rosea is also tricky.

Pityriasis rosea – what is it?


Because the root cause of pityriasis rosea is not yet known, there is difficulty in treating it. The reality is that pityriasis rosea needs no treatment at all. Luckily, the rash will resolve itself in 6-8 weeks. Those who have been infected will typically never experience a recurrence of the condition for the rest of their lives.

Most treatments are directed at the symptoms. These include over-the-counter anti-histamines and anti-inflammatory medications. Sunlight can also help alleviate the condition.

If you find yourself suffering from pityriasis rosea, your best bet is to consult your doctor immediately. While they won’t be able to stop the problem completely, they will be able to help manage the symptoms.