Knowing the stages of the skin disease pityriasis rosea is important for any caregiver who is attempting to diagnose this condition. As a patient, being aware of the symptoms and the stages of progression will help you be aware of how far you've gotten in the course of the disease. Since the disease passes through several distinctive stages, half of which aren't generally alarming enough to warrant medical attention, it's usually halfway over before people get a diagnosis.
Could be Bug Bites
The very earliest sign of pityriasis rosea is a small cluster of bumps that look like little bug bites. These develop into the first of many spots that are characteristic of the disease. Later spots do not begin with these small bumps, however. Just to confuse things, these spots may itch in the same way that bug bites do. Most people do not visit a doctor at this stage, because they think it's just a few bug bites. Even a professional dermatologist would likely not be able to diagnose this little patch of bumps as pityriasis rosea.
The Herald Spot
Also called the "mother spot" this first surefire indication of pityriasis rosea is a red spot that may appear, over a two-week period, to be crusted on the edges. One particularly graphic description of this spot is that the original "bug bites" boiled over and formed a scaly patch of red, irritated skin. Some people seek medical attention at this point while others assume it to be eczema or some other skin irritation and attempt to treat it at home with cortisone creams or anti-fungal ointments. A dermatologist who is familiar with pityriasis rosea could diagnose the spot at this point.
After the first spot develops, more will continue to form throughout the torso, sometimes also on the arms and legs. Pityriasis rosea rarely appears on the palms or on the face or feet. Some researchers speculate that it is sunshine that keeps the pityriasis rosea from cropping up on these body parts, and, indeed, sun therapy is effective for some sufferers. At this point, 90 percent of pityriasis rosea patients seek medical attention.
It is the sudden and rapid onset of spots that drives many people to the dermatologist. Luckily, pityriasis rosea isn't contagious. Unfortunately, there isn't really anything to treat it; it just has to "run its course." Reading more about the disease and understanding that it isn't a failure of hygiene helps many people cope. Knowing that it isn't likely that the spots will end up on their face or hands is also comforting.
As the spots "mature," they become itchy. Exposure to heat can make the itching worse. Any physical activity that elevates the body's temperature, very warm weather and even a hot shower can all make the spots itchier. To relieve the itching, a cool shower or a cool compress can bring down the temperature near the skin.
Aches and Pains
Muscle aches and pains are part of the later stages of pityriasis rosea for some patients. Not all people who suffer from this condition end up with muscle aches and pains, but a many people do, and it's sometimes a comfort to know that the unsightly spots are on their way out. They begin to lighten and fade away.
As if it were a sunburn, the skin covering the spots of pityriasis rosea will peel off, leaving the skin underneath feeling slightly sensitive and possibly more pale in color than the surrounding skin.