Maculopapular rash


Maculopapular rash is a type of skin disorder which causes certain parts of the skin to turn red. Such abnormal skin gives rise to the formation of tiny lumps. Individuals affected by the condition may suffer from the development of both macules and papules on their skin.

The term maculopapular is derived from two words, i.e. macules which mean non-raised, tiny, flat discolored areas on the skin; and papules which mean tiny, swollen elevations or bumps. In the medical world, maculopapular rash is often known as HIV rash

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Symptoms of maculopapular rash

  • The appearance of maculopapular rash is quite similar to skin disorders that are caused due to certain diseases such as measles, syphilis and scarlet fever as well as other skin eruptions caused due to heat rashes. The blemishes caused to maculopapular rash look a lot like those caused by Fifth disease rashes
  • Most cases of maculopapular rash are red in color which may subsequently change into different colors as the condition progresses into the later stages. Hence they are known as Erythematous.
  • Cases of maculopapular rash may develop on any part of the body. Some individuals may develop the skin condition on the trunk while others may develop it on their faces. Children are often affected by maculopapular rash on the soles of their feet and on the palms

Maculopapular rash in itself is a symptom of various disorders. Some of them are discussed below:


  • The appearance of maculopapular rash is one of the primary symptoms of measles. In addition to the rash, the affected individual may also develop high fever with body temperatures that can touch 104 degree Fahrenheit. The rashes generally tend to form a few days after the high fever. Maculopapular rashes have a red appearance in the initial stages of measles and then gradually turn brown in color during the later stages. The rashes vanish after a few days.

Marburg hemorrhagic fever:

  • Maculopapular rash develops a few (usually 5) days after the onset of fever. It is a dangerous type of fever and is known to result in fatality of about 25 percent of the patients.

Scarlet fever:

  • Individuals affected by scarlet fever develop maculopapular rash a day or two after the appearance of the fever. The rashes stay for 3 to 4 days and then disappear. The skin areas affected by maculopapular rash peel after some time and their healing can take a few weeks.

Typhus fever:

  • It is caused due to body lice and is characterized by high fever and appearance of maculopapular rash.

Maculopapular rash causes

Maculopapular rash is caused due the presence of various diseases. Some of the major causes are discussed below:

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  • Syphilis: This infectious and chronic disease leads to the development of maculopapular rash ulcers. Penicillin is used to treat the condition.
  • HIV-1 disease: It results in AIDS and also causes the development of maculopapular rash, which is why the condition is often referred to as HIV rashes. The Type 1 Human Immunodeficiency Virus is one of the most dreaded causes of maculopapular rash.
  • Epstein-Barr virus: In addition to maculopapular rash, the virus also results in the onset of painful blisters as well as certain cancers that can be found in people living in China or the African continent.
  • Scabies: The maculopapular rash that results from this skin condition causes severe itching and irritation.
  • Chikungunya: This viral disease is caused by mosquitoes and results in high body temperature as well as the development of maculopapular rash.
  • Dengue: It is another widespread cause of maculopapular rash. This tropical and highly infectious disease is spread by mosquitoes and results in joint pain, headaches as well as skin rashes. Read more about dengue fever ┬ásymptoms
  • Rubella: It is a mild form of measles and tends to last only for a few days. It is caused by a virus and is contagious.
  • Low cholesterol: Individuals who use the B-vitamin Niacin can suffer from low cholesterol which can eventually lead to the development of maculopapular rash
  • Certain drugs: Maculopapular rash can also be caused as a side effect of certain medications such cefoperazone sodium, amoxicillin, cefobid and other antibiotics. The use of chemotherapy to treat cancers can also cause the rashes.

Maculopapular rash treatment

Most of the treatment for maculopapular rash is aimed at treating the underlying cause. Hence treating the various conditions and diseases associated with it can result in an effective cure. Some examples are provided below:

  • Mild cases of dengue are treated with oral or intravenous hydration. Severe cases require the use of blood transfusion.
  • Chikungunya can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as choloroquine.
  • Maculopapular rash caused due to Marburg hemorrhagic fever requires specialist medical treatment. Though there are no specific methods to cure the condition, studies indicate that the causative virus can be destroyed by gamma radiation and ultraviolet radiation.
  • Rashes caused due to the Epstein-Barr virus are treated with painkillers, rest and the intake of fluids.

Most cases of maculopapular rash do not result in serious health complications. However, it is important to immediately consult your health care provider if you notice red spots on your skin.

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