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Pityriasis Rosea : A Strange Full Body Rash

Updated on June 21, 2016

Pityriasis rosea

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What is Pityriasis rosea

Pityriasis rosea also called pityriasis rosea (pit-uh-rahy-uh-sis row-zee-ah) Gilbert, is a skin rash. It is harmless but may cause discomfort in certain cases. Normally, it begins with a single "herald patch" lesion, that lasts 7-14 days and is then followed by a generalized body rash lasting up to 12 weeks, however usually around 6 - 8. In rare cases it can last up to 6 months.

My fun filled story

As I sit here writing this article I am covered in Pityriasis rosea. This is the first time I've had this rash, and from what I've learned, it will most likely be the last. This is a SCARY rash! I was sick with an upper respiratory infection about a month ago. It was bronchitis, I am a recent ex smoker and thank god for being able to put cigarettes down after 17 years of smoking. Anyhow I received treatment and antibiotics for my cold and quickly recovered. I have been going through extreme stress related to work and family, and had purchased a new swimsuit when I first noticed my Herald patch. I thought it was from fabric friction (I have no idea why I'd think that was the cause looking back), and quickly thought nothing more of it, until a week passed and it had not healed. I then thought I may have contracted ringworm, as I once got that from a tanning bed, and it looked very much like it. I treated it for 3 more days with anti fungal medication and coconut oil, and it did not improve, did not improve at all! By day 30 of the Herald patch arrival, I had a low grade fever, and was exhausted. I rested when I could. Then the rest of the rash began to develop. It started on my lower legs and inner thighs, and quickly moved to my belly and rib cage. It is still spreading as I type this. I have it on my thighs, groin, rib cage, armpits, chest, back and legs. The only places that seem unaffected are my face, palms, soles of feet, and forearms. I've read that this rash is associated with immune system suppression, and herpes virus type 6 and 7, which 90% of humans carry by the age of 6 years old, and that it is viral. I did have chicken pox as a kid, so it's very likely this is a form of HSV. I then went to my dermatologist who confirmed the diagnosis. But before getting to my Dermatologist, I had a visit to the ER for panic and severely uncomfortable skin. I want to burn my skin off, I have never had a feeling like this before in my life and it is horrible. My dermatologist promptly reassured me that there was no need to panic, and to treat this at home. I'm still in panic mode. I want this to go away. I feel like a freak, or that I should be cast out to a leper colony. Luckily for my other family members this is not contagious. I'm now treating this at home with garlic capsules, anti-inflammatory medication, steroids, vitamins, rest, and medicated powder. I only pray this will be gone in a few more weeks, especially because my belly is itching like crazy! This is a very scary, unsettling rash, although harmless and not life threatening. This is a non specific rash, that no one knows the true cause of. It can spread almost over your entire body and it takes a long time to clear up. I felt compelled to share my experience with others, so hopefully if you get this rash, you will take good care of yourself and get better promptly.

What causes this strange rash?

Pityriasis rosea is often caused by a suppression to the immune system either from a previous illness or virus, or from extreme stress. It is common for a previous upper respiratory infection to proceed all other symptoms in 70% percent of cases diagnosed. This rash typically does not leaves scars on the body!

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Herald patch

A very clear Herald patch on chest
A very clear Herald patch on chest | Source

Pityriasis rosea Herald patch

My lovely Herald patch located by my left armpit.  Right where my bathing suit strap rested.
My lovely Herald patch located by my left armpit. Right where my bathing suit strap rested.

Itchy Pityriasis rosea

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Here it is hanging out on my right thighMy hip and stomach.  6 weeks and counting!  Feeling like a mutant.
Here it is hanging out on my right thigh
Here it is hanging out on my right thigh
My hip and stomach.  6 weeks and counting!  Feeling like a mutant.
My hip and stomach. 6 weeks and counting! Feeling like a mutant.

Symptoms

The symptoms of this skin disorder are usually easy to identify but can often be mistaken for another illness.

  1. In all cases, a legion called a "Herald patch" will develop. This is an oval shaped lesion, with a flaky raised edge, 1-10 cm in size with a raised border and fine, adherent scales. It may first appear as a mild skin abrasion, as days pass, it can easily be mistaken for ring worm. But using anti-fungal creams will do nothing to make it go away. Typically the Herald patch appears on the chest or arms, but sometimes in the armpit, where it is easily unnoticed. The Herald patch will form, and within 7-14 days, new lesions in smaller sizes will begin to develop on the body. Most of the time, the rash will cover the upper extremities and trunk, leaving the face, hands, and feet unscathed. It can also appear on the lower legs, groin, and buttocks.
  2. Average heal time is 6-12 weeks and will not cause scarring
  3. 1 in 4 people will experience mild to severe itching.
  4. This rash can also cause fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, mild fever, headaches, and a considerable amount of stress and low self-esteem.
  5. Try not to freak out (I wigged out and it seemed worse), also eliminate as much stress from your life as possible until you are fully healed.

Treatment

It is advised to visit a dermatologist to make sure what you are experiencing is in fact Pityriasis rosea. The good news is, this skin disorder usually only shows up one time in someones life and can easily be treated at home until it goes away. This rash is NOT contagious. You may find a combination of the treatments below work best for you, or that only a few will work.

  1. Use OTC pain medication for inflammation, headaches, and fever
  2. Use benadryl as an antihistamine
  3. Gold Bond medicated powder and cortisone cream can control daytime itchiness
  4. Soaking in an oatmeal bath will also help discomfort from itching
  5. In extreme cases, steroids can be prescribed, like Prednisone (if you are on a steroid do not use cortisone creams). Also keep in mind that most prescriptions medications lower your immunity and have nasty side effects, so it's best to avoid them when possible, use as a last resort. If you have any form of Herpes simplex virus, do not take steroid medication for this rash. Doing so can result in an HSV outbreak. Speak with your doctor or dermatologist about other options.
  6. Diaper rash ointment can also be helpful
  7. Washing with Head and Shoulders on your body can be helpful
  8. Keep your skin clean, and don't scratch, pick or scrub when showering
  9. Use cold compresses, avoid exercise, or clothing that suffocates and overheats your body
  10. Shower in the coldest water you can tolerate and avoid heavy perfumed soaps
  11. Sun exposure can also help lesions heal more quickly
  12. Take garlic capsules, vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc to boost your immune system
  13. L-Lysine can help retard viral reproduction
  14. Get plenty of rest and water
  15. Don't be alarmed if the rash continues to spread after the 7-14 Herald patch arrives, you should see a decline in new rash patches within secondary arrival in about 14 days
  16. Eliminate as much stress as possible from your life


© 2013 Rebecca

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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Hi BISHOP55!

      So sorry to hear about your skin problem! It looks scary and I can visualize your agony. My good wishes to you, for quick recovery.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and educating others about it!

      Voted up!

    • Bishop55 profile image
      Author

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      Thank you ChitrangadaSharan!

    • janetwrites profile image

      Janet Giessl 3 years ago from Georgia country

      OMG, this must be terrible! Around New Year I had a contagious bacterial skin infection called Impetigo contagiosa. This was terrible. My little daughter who was only 7 months also got it. I hope you will recover soon. Thank you for sharing your experience though it is not comfortable.

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      It looks very itchy. Hope you heal quickly. Thanks for the very detailed article on your experience and what to do. I am sure it will be very helpful for others.

    • Bishop55 profile image
      Author

      Rebecca 3 years ago from USA

      Thanks. This rash is relentless! I just wish I would have discovered in my research how to avoid getting it at all! It's a mystery.

    • profile image

      Pitiless rosea 3 years ago

      Some points:

      1. This rash can be very different for different people. I have a very severe case of it, but many people have mild symptoms and most have it once.

      2. Many people don't have a herald patch. It can affect the face and scalp. My PR started in my scalp, moved down my face, died down for four days and then spread along my torso and arms with a vengeance.

      3. Most people have one case, but I'm having my second case in six months. My first case was so atypical that I had four misdiagnoses by GPs before a dermatologist diagnosed PR and even she wasn't 100% sure (but it healed like PR, confirming her diagnosis). So go see a derm.

      4. GET UV LIGHT/SUNLIGHT ONTO IT. My initial case lasted almost 7 weeks before it started healing. I'm tanning vigorously for this second case and it started healing at 2 1/2 weeks. Currently at 3 weeks and it's retreating much faster than the first time. Here in Australia, we're not allowed to use sunbeds (with the world's highest rate of skin cancer), so natural sunlight is the only option.

      5. You may get a low grade fever, like mono. In fact, both times my fever started at the turning point of the rash to the healing phase. I'm sleeping 12 hours a day right now, but that should clear by the end of next week. Told you this thing was atypical.

      6. For me, the only thing that eased the itching is calamine and tanning. That means, the first time, I had to suffer 7 weeks of itching and very little sleep. This time, it only kept me awake for two or three nights, right before it 'broke', and even then I could sleep for much of the night, just getting up every two hours for more calamine.

      Good luck. It will pass. If you're reading horror stories online, remember that many people never get a professional diagnosis, or self diagnose, and probably have something other than PR.

    • profile image

      Danielle 2 years ago

      Great article. Very helpful! I would suggest posting a pic of an African American, as the rash looks a little different, more brown than pink. I wouldn't mind sending you pics of my herald patch.

    • Bishop55 profile image
      Author

      Rebecca 2 years ago from USA

      Send away Danielle, I will post them. Happy to share any info that will help people with this awful rash. Can you message me, and I'll send you my email add?

    • profile image

      Cara 13 months ago

      I'm ony 7th year with pityriasis!! No matter what I do I can not get rid of it. I'm starting steriods tomorrow tk see if it helps. Not many people get it like my case sadly to say I am one the the unfortunates. I have learned to keep it under control but it's always on my body. Luckily it does not affect my neck and face or my head! Hopefully some day it will just go away.

    • profile image

      Karen 10 months ago

      I had it on my torso 45 yrs ago and have had like a very small light spattering on my legs in recent years (one here, one there type of thing) but now have it all over the undersides of both arms. Mine have never itched and original Dr said it just needs to run it's course (no treatment). I have been under stress a lot lately and am fair skinned and seem to get every skin condition there is to be had. Stress seems to play a part in all of them. The look of it is the worst part for me...going out in public looking like you have a contagion.

    • Bishop55 profile image
      Author

      Rebecca 10 months ago from USA

      Karen, thanks for your comment. I agree stress is major factor with skin ailments. You have to keep your immune system up and drink plenty of water. I hope you heal fast! I know when I had this it was just terrible. Hoping you heal quickly :)

    • Shelley Dove Rich profile image

      Shelley Dove Rich 3 months ago

      I see that this post is about 2 years old, but I've been digging for info like a crazy person. In my defense, this intense itching would make anyone crazy! I was diagnosed by my daughter's pediatrician when her eczema flared up and I thought I had spread [what I thought was a] ringworm. I had discovered my herald patch nearly 2 weeks prior to that date and only had 5 or 6 bumps on my arms that I had originally thought to be bug bites (which had developed over the previous 2 days). My daughter's doctor explained that she believed it to be Pityriasis Rosea and that it wasn't contagious. I had been sick about the time that I noticed my herald patch. My immune system sucks as I suffer from several autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The drugs for those alone kill what's left of my immune system. Before I thought I had spread it to my daughter and decided I may have something else I actually assumed my herald patch to be a new patch of psoriasis.

      Since that diagnosis last Thursday, my whole body (minus the palms of my hands, the soles of my feet, and my face) has erupted in an ugly, scaly, itchy rash. Half of those with it report no itching and those that itch mostly report only mild itching, but I'm to the point that I feel like I'm losing my mind. I haven't slept more than a few hours in the past week...and I need my sleep oh so bad right now. Since yesterday I've even developed what seems like 1,000 new spots, so I'm feeling like there's no end in sight. It's embarrassing and my ex husband (who's already spread a lie that I cheated on him) has started spreading that I have syphillis! This stuff has to go soon, before I lose my mind. My arms seem to be the worst in terms of percentage of coverage and intensity, but it's bad everywhere. It's been at least 4 weeks since I initially discovered my herald patch on my stomach, so I'm praying that the next few days will bring clearing and relief. Especially relief!

      Thanks for your post. It's reassuring to see that someone else had intense itching and made it through this rash without scratching their skin down to the bone.

    • Bishop55 profile image
      Author

      Rebecca 2 months ago from USA

      I'm so sorry to hear of your discomfort! I've been there. Try not to scratch it just makes it worse. Try oatmeal baths too, they seemed to help. It will clear up, I promise. I'm glad this article helped you and wish fast healing for you! You're ex husband sounds like a moron, no offense.

    • profile image

      Dlbrazier 2 months ago

      Oh how I'm so happy that I stumbled upon this. I'm absolutely miserable right now. I have tried everything with no relief. I was also misdiagnosed with an allergic reaction and, given steroids and also a antihistamine. It went away for a few days and, then the mother patch came back. On my legs and, arms. My legs are killing me! I'm an essential oil guru so I make oils for everything. I'm here to say that I have tried everything! None of them work. I'm now going to resort to oatmeal, chamomile and good old calamine for some relief while I wait this out. Mine too has spread in the last few days terribly. I fortunately have a sun lamp that I've been using. It does help! But since I have so many it takes forever. I can't wait for this to be over!! It was nice to read that everyone else has felt or feels the same way I'm feeling right now. It seems as though we all find this blog in our darkest hour. Searching the internet relentlessy for a solution. I also read that ST Johns Wart is helpful. So I will add that to my regiment. I will post in a few days with an update. Until then I hope anyone else who is suffering will find comfort in knowing they are not alone!

    • profile image

      KB 7 weeks ago

      I had a terrible sore throat that lasted for weeks before Christmas, then the rash started. I never saw a mother patch, but each bump starts small and itchy and then seems to get bigger and bigger. Its been 4 weeks now and still in the depths of winter so there's no sun to be had for awhile yet. Too many spots to count and new ones every day...

    • profile image

      mrs.anne@gmail.com 5 days ago

      I am just getting over it, in the 5th week since the herald. I had terrible itching so the doc gave me a 7 day course of prednisone and it has helped so much. I would not want to take it longer than that. The rash is still there but less of it and it is fainter and flatter and less itchy. I can shower again so things are looking up. Don't give up.

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