Pityriasis Rosea: The Christmas Tree Rash
Pityriasis Rosea is a benign skin rash. While the rash isn’t dangerous, it can cause substantial discomfort to those affected by it. “The rash usually begins with a single ‘herald patch’ skin lesion which is then followed by a general body rash after one to two weeks,” says Dr. Kellie Reed, board-certified Dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology. The rash has a unique pattern on the skin, affecting the skin folds and often described as resembling a Christmas tree. Pityriasis rosea usually lasts for around 6 to 8 weeks before fading naturally, but can last for up to 12 weeks in some cases.
Who gets it?
“Pityriasis rosea seems to affect both men and women in roughly equal numbers, affecting less than 1% of people living in the United States,” Dr. Reed explains. It most often occurs between the ages of 10 and 35. While it is not considered to be contagious, there have been some reports of minor outbreaks in schools, gyms, and military bases.
What causes it?
While there is no official known cause for pityriasis rosea, its clinical presentation suggests some form of viral infection as a likely cause. Some physicians believe it may be caused by a reactivation of herpes viruses 6 and 7. These viral strains are known to cause roseola in children.
How do you treat it?
“No treatment is generally required for pityriasis rosea, but oral antihistamines may be used to help prevent itching,” says Dr. Reed. While no scarring has been reported as a result of the rash, scratching should be avoided in order to prevent damage to the skin. Avoiding irritants and applying a moisturizer will help to lessen itching and assist the skin in repairing itself. Topical steroids and treatment with UV light have also been shown to help hasten the fading of the rash.
Photo credit: James Heilman,MD [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons