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Maculopapular rash – Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Pictures

Updated on November 18, 2013

Maculopapular rash is a term used to describe a skin disorder that is identified by excessive redness of the affected skin, accompanied by the formation of tiny bumps. Patients of maculopapular rash may be affected by development of both macules and papules on the skin.

‘Maculopapular’ is a term that has its origins in two terms, namely ‘macules’ which signify small, flat, non-raised and discolored areas of skin, and ‘papules’ which signify tiny, inflamed lumps of raised growths. The condition is often known by its medical term, i.e. HIV.

Symptoms of maculopapular rash

Maculopapular rash has an appearance that is similar to various other types of skin conditions associated with the presence of diseases such as scarlet fever, syphilis and measles. It also tends to look similar as those accompanying the eruptions of a heat rash. The abnormal skin patches are reminiscent of Fifth disease rashes.

Most instances of maculopapular rash are initially red in color, later progressing into various other colors as per the stage of the disease. Therefore, the maculopapular rashes are also known as Erythematous.

Maculopapular rash may occur in any part of the body. A few people may experience the rashes on their faces, while others may elicit the skin anomalies on the torso. Children are usually affected by the formation of maculopapular rash on the soles of the feet, and/or on the palms.

It is also possible for maculopapular rash to develop as a symptom of some other deadly underlying cause, a few of which are discussed below:

  • Measles: One of the major symptoms of measles is the formation of maculopapular rash. The patients may additionally experience fevers with very high temperatures that can touch 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Maculopapular rashes normally tend to occur after a few days of extreme fever. The early phases of measles are identified by the presence of reddish maculopapular rashes, which later turns brown during the later stages. The rashes fade away in some days.

  • Typhus fever: The disorder occurs due to infection with body lice. It features maculopapular rash and high grade fever.

  • Marburg hemorrhagic fever: This disease causes fever with signs of maculopapular rash in approximately 5 days. It is a deadly kind of fever, with incidence of fatalities in about 25 percent of the affected individuals.

  • Scarlet fever: The patient will experience an episode of maculopapular rash, a few days after the initial fever. The skin anomalies go away after 3 to 4 days. During the final stages the skin areas with maculopapular rash may elicit peeling, and such regions may heal only after some weeks have elapsed.

Causes of maculopapular rash

The rash may be caused due to the presence of several types of preexisting conditions such as:

  • Syphilis: It is an infectious and chronic disease which results in development of maculopapular rash ulcers. It is cured with Penicillin.

  • Chikungunya: The disease is caused due to viral infections resulting from a mosquito bite. It features high fever and maculopapular rash

  • Scabies: The associated cases of maculopapular rash resulting from this skin disease can cause extreme irritation and itchiness

  • HIV-1: This life threatening disease also causes maculopapular rash before advancing into AIDS. It is one of the main reasons why maculopapular rash is also known as HIV rashes. The HIV Type 1 condition is one of the deadliest types of maculopapular rash.

  • Epstein-Barr virus: Infection by this virus can also result in occurrence of maculopapular rash along with painful blisters as well as certain forms of cancers that affect residents of China or the African continent

  • Rubella: It is a minor form of measles tends to last only for some days. It is contagious and caused by a virus.

  • Dengue: It is another dangerous, infectious condition which is associated with the formation of maculopapular rash. It is caused due to a mosquito bite and results additional symptoms like joint pain, headaches, etc.

  • Low cholesterol levels: It may be caused due to intake of B-vitamin Niacin and result in growth of maculopapular rash

  • Some drugs: A number of medications like cefoperazone sodium, cefobid, amoxicillin and other antibiotics can result in maculopapular rash as a side effect. Chemotherapy can also result in maculopapular rash

Treatment for maculopapular rash

  • The treatment involves diagnosis of the underlying cause and then curing that preexisting disease.

  • Minor dengue infections are treated with intravenous or manual hydration, while severe instances may require blood transfusion and other treatments

  • Marburg hemorrhagic fever requires specialist care. Currently, there are no known ways to treat the disease. However, it has been reported that the culprit virus can be destroyed with gamma or UV radiation.

  • Chikungunya can be alleviated with anti inflammatory medicines

  • Maculopapular rash linked to Epstein-Barr infections are resolved with pain killers, drinking lots of liquids and engaging in complete bed rest

  • It may be noted that a majority of maculopapular rash cases are minor and do not result in medical complications. However, all instances of abnormal red spots on skin have to be evaluated by a doctor, as they can also be symptoms of skin cancers.


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