Introduction 

Pityriasis rosea is a relatively common skin condition, causing a distinctive skin rash of raised, red scaly patches across the body.

The condition will usually resolve by itself within 2-12 weeks and it doesn't pose a serious threat to your health.

In many cases, a single red, oval patch of scaly skin called a “herald patch” appears before the rash. This typically appears a few days to two weeks before the wider rash.

The rash is sometimes itchy.

Read more about the symptoms of pityriasis rosea.

When to see your GP

If you think that you may have pityriasis rosea, see your GP to help confirm the diagnosis and ensure that other possible causes of your rash are not overlooked. Pityriasis rosea is not associated with any serious complications, so there’s no need to be concerned.

If you develop blistering, soreness, or involvement of your eyes, genitals or mouth, you should seek medical advice immediately, as this may indicate another more serious condition.

Read more about diagnosing pityriasis rosea.

Why it happens

It's not known what causes pityriasis rosea. One theory is that the rash may be the result of a viral infection, although there's currently no hard evidence to support this.

Pityriasis rosea is not contagious and can't be spread to other people by physical contact, so there's no need for someone with the condition to be kept away from other people.

Treating pityriasis rosea

In most cases, pityriasis rosea will clear up without any treatment. The rash usually goes away within twelve weeks, although it can sometimes last for up to six months.

Emollients (moisturisers), steroid creams and a type of medication known as an antihistamine can be used to help relieve the itchiness.

Read more about treating pityriasis rosea.

Who is affected

Pityriasis rosea is a relatively common skin condition, although precise statistics for the UK are not known.

Most cases of pityriasis rosea occur in older children and younger adults between 10 and 35 years old. However, cases have been reported in babies as young as 10 months old and elderly people in their eighties.

For unknown reasons, the condition affects women more often than men.

Most people only experience one episode of pityriasis rosea in their lifetime. Around 1 in 50 people have repeated episodes.

A typical "herald patch", often the first sign of pityriasis rosea 

Pityriasis versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor is another common skin condition that can be confused with pityriasis rosea as the rash may look similar.

However, there are important differences between the two. Pityriasis versicolor is caused by a yeast infection and can be treated with antifungal creams or anti-dandruff shampoos.

Read more about pityriasis versicolor.

Page last reviewed: 07/05/2013

Next review due: 07/05/2015