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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Pityriasis lichenoides

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Your Question

Are there any other treatments for pityriasis lichenoides besides ultraviolet (UV) light treatment and topical cream?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is pityriasis lichenoides?

Pityriasis lichenoides is a skin disorder of unknown cause.  There are two types of pityriasis lichenoides; a more severe form with a sudden onset that tends to be short-lived (acute) which is usually found in children, known as pityriasis lichenoides et varioliformis acuta and a more mild but long-lasting (chronic) form known as pityriasis lichenoides chronica.[1] Pityriasis lichenoides chronica may clear up in a few weeks or persist for years.[1]
Last updated: 9/20/2011

What are the signs and symptoms of pityriasis lichenoides et varioliformis acuta?

Pityriasis lichenoides et varioliformis acuta (PLEVA) is the acute form of a skin condition called pityriasis lichenoides. It is characterized by the sudden onset of red patches that quickly develop into scaling papules. These papules may become filled with blood and/or pus or erode into crusted red-brown spots. People may also experience burning and itching of the affected area. Scarring and/or temporary discoloration of the skin may be present after the lesions have healed.[2][3][4]

Although PLEVA can affect almost any part of the body, it most commonly develops on the trunk and/or limbs (arms/legs). Affected people may have a few to more than one hundred papules. The skin abnormalities generally resolve without treatment in a few weeks to a few months; however, some people experience episodes of the condition on and off for years.[3][4]

Aside from the skin findings, most affected people do not experience any additional signs and symptoms. However, some may experience fever, headaches, joint pain and swelling of nearby lymph nodes.[3]

Febrile Ulceronecrotic Mucha-Haberman Disease is a rare and severe variant of PLEVA that is associated with unique signs and symptoms.[2][3] For more information on this condition, please click here.
Last updated: 2/2/2015

What symptoms are associated with pityriasis lichenoides chronica (PLC)?

PLC is the milder form of pityriasis lichenoides, and the lesions associated with this form consist of small, firm, red-brown spots. Unlike PLEVA, the lesions are not irritating and have mica-like adherent scale, which can be scraped off to reveal a shiny brown surface. The spot flattens out over several weeks to leave a brown mark which fades over several months. PLC can look like psoriasis, lichen planus, or insect bites.[1]
Last updated: 7/19/2013

What treatment is available for pityriasis lichenoides?

The different forms of treatment for pityriasis lichenoides that have been used range from natural sunlight exposure to chemotherapeutic agents. Treatment may not be necessary if the rash is not causing symptoms.[5] When itching is severe, topical corticosteroids, tar preparations, and antihistamines may provide relief without changing the course of the disease. In adult patients, administration of methotrexate and oral tetracycline has led to good results; however, these medications are inappropriate for first-line treatment in young children. In addition to tetracycline, erythromycin is another antibiotic that is commonly used to treat pityriasis lichenoides. Sunlight is helpful, and excellent therapeutic responses to UVB phototherapy are documented. UVB therapy is more difficult in young children, and there is little data regarding the long-term risks of phototherapy in the pediatric population. It is difficult to interpret the results of formal therapy evaluations because of the frequency of spontaneous remissions.[6][7]
Last updated: 7/19/2013

See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.