Is Pityriasis Rosea Contagious & How Is It Treated?| Causes, Symptoms, Stages of Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a common viral disease that generally affects people between 10-35 years of age. Here, rashes develop in the skin that typically lasts 6-9 weeks, rarely extending longer than 12 weeks. Read below and know more about the disease, if it is contagious, its causes, symptoms, stages, treatments and complications.

What is Pityriasis Rosea?

What is Pityriasis Rosea?

Pityriasis rosea, is a rash that basically appears on the torso, upper arms, neck, or thighs. It begins as a single, large pink patch found on the trunk of the body and is called the “Herald patch.” This herald patch is followed 1-2 weeks later with a profusion of smaller scaling pink spots on the torso. It is mildly itchy in 5% of cases and takes 6-9 weeks to clear off on an average. There may be other symptoms associated with Pityriasis rosea, such as the flu-like symptoms. This condition is fairly easy to treat when detected.

Is Pityriasis Rosea Contagious?

Pityriasis rosea does not seem to be directly or immediately contagious to close contacts or doctors exposed to the rash. Most individuals with a known exposure to pityriasis rosea, do not seem to contract the rash. Moreover, In most people, it does not leave marks or scars after it gets healed.

Causes of Pityriasis Rosea:

The exact cause of pityriasis rosea is not known. There is some evidence that indicates the rash may be triggered by a viral infection, particularly by certain strains of the herpes virus. But is it not related to the herpes virus causing cold sores. Pityriais rosea is not believed to be contagious.

Symptoms of Pityriasis Rosea:

Pityriasis rosea generally begins with a large, slightly raised, scaly patch, known as Herald patch, on your chest, back or abdomen. Before the herald patch appears, some people experience symptoms like headache, fatigue, fever or sore throat.

After a few days to a few weeks of the appearance of herald patch, may notice smaller scaly spots across your back, chest and abdomen that resembles much like a pine-tree pattern. This rash may cause itching. Some people may also have affected areas in their mouths; for example, blisters or ulcers.

Stages of Pityriasis Rosea:

Not all skin problems have different stages; however, Pityriasis rosea does; which often helps people understand their condition in a better way. Below are the different stages of Pityriasis rosea.

Preliminary Stage of Pityriasis Rosea:

This is the first stage, where you may feel sick for a few days before a rash begins to appear on your skin. There may be belly pain or indigestion, along with symptoms like fever, moderate headache, loss of appetite as well as joint pain. These symptoms generally disappear as the rash begins to appear.

Herald Patch Stage of Pityriasis Rosea:

In this stage a large pink patch begins to appear on the neck, chest or the back. It likely begins out as oval shape and grows over several days. In some cases, it can show up in the scalp, genitals or face. For many individuals, it takes on the shape of a Christmas tree.

Rash Stage of Pityriasis Rosea:

There is a rash following the herald stage. It can appear a few days or weeks after the Herald stage or after the Christmas patch shows up. This rash can last up to several weeks. The rash is typically small, raised and scaly patches around 0.5 to 1.5 cm long. They can be in the chest, neck, back, arms and upper thighs; however, do not normally appear on the face. Light-skinned people experience pink or reddish patches, while darker- skinned individuals may get dark brown or even gray-colored patches.

It must be mentioned that most rashes if Pityriasis rosea are not painful, although they might be itchy in some cases.

Diagnosis of Pityriasis Rosea:

Usually, the diagnosis of Pityriasis rosea is done solely on the basis of its appearance; especially the onset of the distinct large herald patch and the symmetrical Christmas tree presentation. Apart from this, the herald patch tends to have a fine scale with a definite border, the so-called “Collarette”. In order to rule out other types of skin disorders, a doctor may scrape the skin and examine the scales under the microscope so as to detect fungus infection, that could mimic pityriasis rosea.

Moreover, blood tests including Rapid plasma reagent or RPR< May be done to detect secondary syphilis, which may also mimic Pityriasis rosea. A skin biopsy may be essential in some cases to rule out other skin conditions.

It must be mentioned that Pityriasis rosea may be at times misdiagnosed as Psoriasis, eczema, secondary syphilis, tinea corporis or fungal infection, pityriasis lichenoides chronic, fixed drug eruption, drug eruption, Lichen planus or Parapsoriasis.

Treatment of Pityriasis Rosea:

Pityriasis rosea, usually requires no treatment and resolves gradually. Treatment is not required if the rash does not cause significant symptoms. Usually pityriasis rosea clears off on its own within 6-9 weeks without medical intervention. However, below are some of the treatments, which can be followed to rule out the symptoms at a quicker rate.

Topical Steroid Creams And Oral Histamines:

Topical steroid creams such as Hydrocortisone cream and oral histamines like, Benadryl, or Zyrtect; are used to treat the most common symptoms, i.e. itching in Pityriasis rosea. Though these will not shorten the duration of the rash, they will reduce the itching.

Ultraviolet Light (UVB) or Sunlight:

One more treatment used for treating the itching is the Ultraviolet light or UVB or Sunlight.

Antibiotics And Antiviral Medications:

There are limited evidences of reduced duration of pityriasis rosea, with the off-label use of the antibiotic Erythromycin or off-label use of antiviral medications, like, acyclovir (Zovirax), or famciclovir (Famvir). However, neither of these medicines has been proven to be uniformly effective in treating pityriasis rosea, and they are not usually required.

Home Remedies For Treating Pityriasis Rosea:

Generally the best treatment for Pityriais rosea is to avoid being overheated by reducing exercise and by avoiding hot baths. You can however take lukewarm showers. Apart from this, you must avoid drying soaps, wearing cotton or silk clothing so as to reduce heat and taking oatmeal baths. Calamine or menthol lotions can be beneficial for itching. Other remedies include, using steroid creams and lubricating with bland moisturizers.

Complications of Pityriasis Rosea:

In most cases, Pityriasis rosea is harmless and does not return once it goes away. However, if in your case it lasts longer than 3 months, you need to check in with your doctor; as you may have another condition or be reacting to a medication.

NOTE: Pregnant women may have a higher chance of a serious complication from Pityriasis rosea. You need to see your Gynecologist if you are pregnant and get Pityriasis rosea. In a small study, it was found that a majority of women who got the rash in their first 15 weeks of pregnancy, had miscarriages.


So, from all the above readings, we are not pretty much known about the condition of Pityriasis rosea. It is essential for you to meet your doctor if you experience any such symptom or rash in your body and get yourself properly diagnosed and treated well.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 14, 2018

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