A Research Breakdown of Pityriasis Rosea

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Hi Everyone,

I'll start by saying that I have a background in research, but I'm not a doctor, so what I'm sharing here is the skinny on research studies about pityriasis rosea (PR) and my impressions of the results. 

I currently have PR, so I started looking at these forums, but then worked my way into the research articles. I've seen a lot people ask why more work hasn't been done to find the cause/treatment for PR, but the studies do exist.

There's some debate about this in the research world, but studies are pointing to two types of the Herpes virus (HH6 and HH7) as a potential cause. This is not the cold sore or gential herpes type (HSV1 and 2). There are many many types of herpes virus - one of which causes chicken pox! These studies generally find people who have PR and healthy volunteers (controls). They collect blood, skin cells, and saliva and test in a few different ways whether you have antibodies or viral particles. Some studies support that HH6 and HH7 are a cause (people with PR are shown to have higher levels of the virus), but others show an opposite result (controls having similar or higher levels of the virus). You could think that this debunks the whole theory becuase there are conflicting results. But there are a few problems that make these findings still potentially meaningful. (1) These viruses are thought be in about 80 - 90% of the population. It could be that some people develop PR because their immune system is compromised or there's something else unique about the people who get it. (2) Studies use different types of testing that are more or less reliable. (3) These viruses are the kind that sit in your cells  all the time, but only come out when prompted by some trigger. This testing could be catching people in different parts of the viruses lifecycle. Anyways, I'm leaning towards believe it is the virus because that would explain a lot of things.

As for treatments..this is what everyone wants to know about. Again, I can't guarantee anything, but for people interested in the research side this may be helpful. Researchers have looked at UV treatments. Studies do seem to show that this can be helpful for PR. The problem is that I'm not an expert enough in UV radiation levels and how they translate to tanning beds. In research they use control amounts of UV light at a certain level and I have no idea what tanning beds use. I found one study about red light therapy that showed some efficacy, but that was one study. I'm risking the dangers of tanning beds for a few short treatments to see if it has an effect. If I don't see it by the third treatment then I'm out, because your increased cancer risk just doesn't seem worth it.

Other studies have looked at the use of acyclovir in the treatment of PR. Acyclovir is a drug used in cold sore and genital herpes infections. They're different viruses of course, but the way the drug works could potentially effect HH6 and 7 in the same way. These studies used people with PR and had some people take the drug while others didn't or had a placebo. These studies did find that the drug led to an earlier resolution of PR. You would have to consider the risks of taking this drug and not knowing if it will truly help. You would also have to convince your doctor to prescribe to you. I'm going to try this for sure.

Finally, this could be the biggest leap in logic, but I'm going to try it. If I assume that this is caused by a herpes virus, then I can apply the same logic of a cold sore outbreak to a PR outbreak. There's lots more literature about managing cold sore outbreaks than PR. Read up on what they recommend for managign cold sores - like eating more foods with L-lysine and eating less of certain foods. My diet right now consists primarily of the foods they say you shouldn't eat with a cold sore outbreak: citrus fruits, nuts and seeds, chocolate, etc. As of this evening, I'm going to cut that out. It can't hurt and it might help. Articles that talk about managing cold sores also say you should reduce your stress becuase it's a trigger/makes it worse. That also seems to fit with PR. My stress about this conditions has decreased a whole lot after my research.

 Head and shoulders...It sounds like they think the virus reactivating in your system causes the skin spots. Like a sign of the virus replicating. Maybe treatments that treat the skin do actually help with the manifestation of the virus. But ultimately you would have to beat the virus back to make it really go away. This could explain why it works in some people but not others.

The take home points: I think this could be a viral cause. It's already in most of the population, but it pops out in some people as PR. Testing did show viral particles in saliva, but they didn't test (as far as I saw) vaginal secretions/semen, so who knows there. If all this is true, than you could potentially spread it. But docs say that it's not contagious. This could be becuase not everyone with the virus gets PR. It could be because the studies saw that you're not likely to spread it by contact with the spots/lesions. Who knows. I'm going to treat it like virus and see if it gets better.

This is a long post, but I've put so much thought into this and saw so many people on these forums that I felt I needed to share. But I'm not a doctor. I would say that if you doctor has a different opinion, I would want to be pointed towards the supporting research.

And I out.

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  • Posted

    Jane this really is helpful. I am now on my third week. Two weeks of the herald and now a week into the spread and it's pretty much covered me with more coming each day. It's just awful. I am in tears most nights. I have decided a few more weeks and I am back to the docs. I believe mine was my immune being low and the virus taking control. Been poorly since December with sinusitis and throat Infection. With my daughter to run around after. Rest hasn't been an option. Plus I decided to start running of an evening in January and after not running since my teens (now 32) running 20k the first week and 15k the next, along with just recovering from the sinusitis I think my body went into shock. Creating a throat infection and PR!! I am praying it takes quicker than 12 weeks. Currently on fire writing this xxx
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    • Posted

      I did end up getting a prescription for valacyclovir (which turns into acyclovir in the body) and the results were great. I took 2 courses (3 days per course) of 500 mg twice per day. It doesn't stop the spread at first, but there was a noticeable difference in the look and feel of the lesions within a day. At the end of the courses the redness was gone and the spots were peeling/healing. The spots still get redder when exposed to heat or sweat, but it's not the lesions coming back. No side effects from the medication that I noticed. So my case at least supports the research.

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  • Posted

    Thank you for your post.  I posted awhile back to see if anyone suffers from cold sores(herpes), as I too, believe this is the root of this virus.  My son, who experienced this last year, does suffer from fever blisters.  His outbreak from PR was during a VERY stressful time and he was so distraught I took to the Internet.  There was research in England that suggested a heavy dose of acyclovir.  This did not work for my son...actually made it worse.  Had great success with Head and Shoulder, though.  Didn't try tanning beds, but will if it returns.  Thank you for your post.  I do believe this is some form of herpes, so it's in the blood and there is the potential for recurrence.  
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  • Posted

    I have had this on and off since I was a kid. 

    If it is PR, then I can confirm it has an autoimmue element because it always strikes me when I have some kind of damage to my skin. Once it was some chicken wire, this time it was some flea bites from a friend's dog. 

    Did you have any luck with the UV? 


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