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Pityriasis Rubra Pilaris Treatment & Management

  • Author: Philip D Shenefelt, MD, MS; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 25, 2016

Medical Care

Topical therapy

Topical corticosteroids may provide some patient comfort, but they are believed to have little long-term therapeutic effect on pityriasis rubra pilaris (PRP).

Calcipotriol is a vitamin D analogue that has been used in the topical treatment of psoriasis. A report of successful treatment has been documented in 3 patients with pityriasis rubra pilaris; however, controlled studies are needed to further assess its usefulness.[21]

The topical retinoid tazarotene has been used for topical treatment of psoriasis and acne. It has been reported to improve juvenile circumscribed pityriasis rubra pilaris.[22]

Emollients reduce fissuring and dryness, providing some patient comfort. Petroleum jelly or one of the many proprietary emollients may be used.


Phototherapy can include narrowband phototherapy and extracorporeal photochemotherapy.

Nonresponsiveness to treatment with topical and systemic medications should prompt consideration of narrowband UVB phototherapy. Narrowband UVB phototherapy uses a fluorescent bulb with a narrow emission spectrum that peaks at 311 nm (UVB spectrum, 290-320 nm). This selective and relatively longer wavelength may be more effective than broadband UVB for the treatment of pityriasis rubra pilaris.[23]

Extracorporeal photochemotherapy involves the ex vivo exposure of leukapheresed peripheral blood mononuclear cells to UVA in the presence of 8-MOP (DNA-intercalating agent) and subsequent reinfusion of the treated cells. Successful treatment of a patient with pityriasis rubra pilaris that was unresponsive to standard treatments has been reported.[24] Further studies are needed.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Philip D Shenefelt, MD, MS Professor, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of South Florida College of Medicine; Past Chief, Section of Dermatology, James A Haley Veteran Affairs Medical Center

Philip D Shenefelt, MD, MS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Florida Medical Association, Noah Worcester Dermatological Society, Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, American Contact Dermatitis Society, American Association for Physician Leadership, American Medical Association, American Society of Clinical Hypnosis

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Jeffrey P Callen, MD Professor of Medicine (Dermatology), Chief, Division of Dermatology, University of Louisville School of Medicine

Jeffrey P Callen, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American College of Physicians, American College of Rheumatology

Disclosure: Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: XOMA; Biogen/IDEC; Novartis; Janssen Biotech, Abbvie, CSL pharma<br/>Received honoraria from UpToDate for author/editor; Received honoraria from JAMA Dermatology for associate editor and intermittent author; Received royalty from Elsevier for book author/editor; Received dividends from trust accounts, but I do not control these accounts, and have directed our managers to divest pharmaceutical stocks as is fiscally prudent from Stock holdings in various trust accounts include some pharmaceutical companies and device makers for i inherited these trust accounts; for: Celgene; Pfizer; 3M; Johnson and Johnson; Merck; Abbott Laboratories; AbbVie; Procter and Gamble; Amgen.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Andrea Leigh Zaenglein, MD Professor of Dermatology and Pediatrics, Department of Dermatology, Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

Andrea Leigh Zaenglein, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Pediatric Dermatology

Disclosure: Received consulting fee from Galderma for consulting; Received consulting fee from Valeant for consulting; Received consulting fee from Promius for consulting; Received consulting fee from Anacor for consulting; Received grant/research funds from Stiefel for investigator; Received grant/research funds from Astellas for investigator; Received grant/research funds from Ranbaxy for other; Received consulting fee from Ranbaxy for consulting.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author, Margaret H. Rinker, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

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Reddish orange plaques on the trunk.
Follicular hyperkeratosis seen on the dorsal aspect of the proximal phalanges.
Plantar keratoderma with an orange hue on the soles.
Palmar keratoderma with an orange hue on the palms.
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