Skin Health More Skin Conditions Print How to Recognize Pityriasis Rosea By Heather Brannon, MD Updated June 25, 2019 More in Skin Health More Skin Conditions Acne Psoriasis Eczema & Dermatitis Fungal, Bacterial & Viral Infections Skin Care & Cleansing Products Pityriasis rosea is a common, sometimes itchy rash that resolves on its own. The rash begins with a herald patch and continues to spread in a characteristic pattern, typically over the course of 6 to 8 weeks. The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown and there is no cure to date. These photos illustrate the phases and characteristics of pityriasis rosea. 1 Herald Patch James Heilman, MD/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 Pityriasis rosea is a common, itchy rash that resolves on its own. The rash begins with a herald patch, pictured here. The herald patch is a single 2 to 10 centimeter round or oval-shaped lesion that most often appears on the trunk and resembles ringworm. Within a few days, smaller lesions appear mainly on the trunk or wherever the herald patch is located, but they can also spread to the arms, legs, and face. Lesions can continue to spread several weeks after the herald patch first appeared. 2 Herald Patch Joe Miller This is another example of a herald patch at the onset of pityriasis rosea. A full rash usually develops within a few days or several weeks of the herald patch's appearance. Pityriasis rosea typically occurs in people between 10 and 35 years of age. The appearance of the rash, especially its striking resemblance to ringworm, is cause for concern, but it's a non-threatening skin condition that resolves on its own. 3 Typical Rash Joe Miller This is what pityriasis rosea looks like when the full rash has broken out. Lesions start to appear around the herald patch and can spread to the arms, legs, and face. The lesions tend to be oval-shaped with thin, tissue-like scales that cover them, and they can be itchy. Lesions are salmon-colored and relatively discrete on light skin. On dark skin they are hyperpigmented. In most cases, a pityriasis rosea outbreak will clear up in 6 to 8 weeks, but it can persist for up to 5 months or more. 4 Trunk Joe Miller Pityriasis rosea most often takes hold on the trunk. Studies that have investigated the skin condition's potential viral or bacterial origins are inconclusive, and the cause for pityriasis rosea is unknown. In some cases, the rash is preceded by a recent infection with fever, fatigue, headache, and sore throat. Pityriasis rosea tends to occur most often in colder months, and it occurs in all ethnicities. Only 2 percent of those who have had pityriasis rosea will have a recurrence. 5 Atypical Rash Joe Miller Pityriasis rosea rashes tend to look the same, but an atypical rash is not uncommon. The photo above is an atypical form of pityriasis rosea. The lesions are not as distinct; instead, they are more generalized over the area. The rash can be more papular, or bumpy, in young children, pregnant women and on darker skin tones. In infants vesicles, and wheals have been known to appear. Even oral lesions can occur, and in some cases, the rash covers the entire body. 6 Generalized Rash Joe Miller This is an atypical pityriasis rosea rash on the upper back. Normally there are fewer lesions that are more spread out over the trunk, but these papular lesions cover a lot of the area and are very close together. An atypical rash is often misdiagnosed as ringworm, psoriasis or eczema. If the rash can't be accurately diagnosed solely on appearance, a KOH (potassium hydroxide) test will be done to identify the rash's fungal elements. 7 Pityriasis Rosea on the Neck Joe Miller Although pityriasis rosea appears mostly on the trunk, it's not uncommon for it to spread around the body, including the arms, neck and even scalp. The rash rarely spreads to the face. It's unknown whether pityriasis rosea is contagious and there is no cure. The skin condition runs its course and usually clears up after 6 to 8 weeks. In many cases, a dermatologist will prescribe an oral antihistamine or topical steroids to help with itching. Few studies have investigated treatment options, but there are few theories that may shorten the rash's course, including concentrated doses of erythromycin (an antibiotic used to treat acne), sun exposure and UVB therapy. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Sign up for our Health Tip of the Day newsletter, and receive daily tips that will help you live your healthiest life. Email Address Sign Up There was an error. Please try again. Thank you, , for signing up. What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand Submit Article Sources Mayo Clinic. Pityriasis Rosea.