Maculopapular Rash: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Maculopapular Rash

A maculopapular rash is a type of rash characterized by a flat, red area on the skin covered with small confluent bumps. It is medically known as HIV rash. It can affect all age groups and can appear on all parts of the body.

The name maculopapular is derived from “macule,” which are flat discolored skin lesions, and “papule,” which are small raised bumps.

A maculopapular rash can be a key indicator of diseases, allergic reactions, and infections such as viral infection. You should see a doctor immediately to treat the maculopapular rash.

The rash looks unique and is treatable. We have outlined the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments of maculopapular rash below.

What Does Maculopapular Rash Look Like?

A maculopapular rash is most commonly identified as red bumps on the skin. The rash can appear on a flat, red patch of skin on any part of the body, though commonly found in the upper trunk of your body.

If you have dark skin, the rash may not show up or be difficult to see. It is sometimes itchy and can last between two days to three weeks depending on the severity. Initially, the rash appears red, and in later stages, it becomes discolored.

Symptoms Associated with Maculopapular Rash

A person suffering from maculopapular rash can show more than one symptom. The rash is common in body’s immune reaction and infections.

Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle pain
  • Dry Skin
  • Difficulty breathing

These symptoms can also be a sign of a contagious infection. It is important to see a doctor immediately if you suspect you have a rash and any of the above symptoms.

What Causes Maculopapular Rash?

Some of the maculopapular rash causes are listed below:

1. Drug Reactions

Allergic reaction to certain medications is a common cause of the maculopapular rash. Drugs such as Cefoperazone Sodium, Cefobid, and chemotherapeutic drugs may cause this rash.

The reaction can develop between four to 12 days after taking the medicine. The other symptoms include muscle pain or fever. The rash should fade after one or two weeks.

2. Epstein-Barr Virus

Viral or bacterial infection is another cause of the maculopapular rash. People suffering from cancer in Africa and China by the animal virus causes painful skin blisters accompanied by fever.

3. Scabies

Scabies is a contagious disease that causes itching and skin irritation.

4. Type 1 HIV

The type 1 Human-Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can also cause maculopapular rash and hence it is also known as the HIV rash.

5. Low Cholesterol

Vitamin B3 and niacin deficiency can cause a maculopapular rash . People suffering from low cholesterol levels are likely to develop symptoms, including the rash.

6. Body’s Systemic Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s response to an infection or injury. Your body may respond to drugs, infections, or allergic reactions. Inflammation can occur in any part of the body, commonly in the lymph nodes around the neck and head.

Inflammation can occur in any part of the body, commonly in the lymph nodes around the neck and head.

Maculopapular Rash Diagnosis

There are a number of causes of maculopapular rash so it is important to see a doctor to assess your symptoms immediately.

Please see a doctor if you break out in a maculopapular rash. Your doctor will ask for your travel and medical history when diagnosing the cause of your rash. Keep track of your rash like where did it appear first and see if it has spread to any other parts of your body.

The more information you can provide, the more likely you will be to receive a proper diagnosis. The doctor may ask for symptoms like fever, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, etc.

Lab tests are a common way to confirm the stasis of the disease through a blood sample which will include blood count, culture test of pustules, syphilis, and a cerebrospinal fluid test.

Many other tests can be administered as well depending on symptoms including ENT, lung, genitals, joint, and nerve tests.

The surest way to diagnose this rash is to check individual’s medical history and take account of all past illnesses before the breakout.

Possible Treatments for Maculopapular Rash

There are many ways to treat the maculopapular rash, but the treatment depends on the cause, severity, and the symptoms.

If the drug reaction is the cause of the rash, the doctor will first identify the particular compound causing the rash. You should stop the use of the medicine altogether. He may then prescribe a substitute.

Treating the infection is the first thing you should do if the rash is due to viral or bacterial infections. Rest, hydration, and pain-killers are the best ways to treat a maculopapular rash.

Another popular treatment method includes Chloroquine, an anti-inflammatory drug which alleviates the disease and its symptoms. Chloroquine is used when the Chikungunya virus is the causative agent and is confirmed through a serologic test, which looks for antibodies in your blood.

The maculopapular rash has no definitive cure. Sometimes in worse cases, ultraviolet and gamma radiation can be the last treatment option.

Your doctor may also prescribe over-the-counter drugs including hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl.

You shouldn’t self-diagnose or treat any of your potential symptoms of the rash. It is of extreme importance to see a doctor. Your doctor will evaluate the symptoms and treat the causative agent of your rash properly.


Allergic reactions and infections are the two most common causes of the rash. A maculopapular rash should be taken seriously for correct diagnosis and treatment. You should track the progression of the rash and the accompanying symptoms.

With many causes of this rash and a number of possible outcomes, you need proper treatment. See a doctor and follow their recommended instructions to ensure an efficient recovery process.

“Maculopapular Rash”, Heathool web site;, last accessed Sep 01, 2017.
“What is a Maculopapular Rash?”,Healthline web site;, last accessed Sep 01, 2017.

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Dr. Mark Williams, MD

Dr. Mark Williams is a leader in alternative and integrated medicines. He is a medical writer and reviewer at Daily Health Cures. He received his medical degree in 1988. Mark brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Daily Health Cures editorial team. He is a natural health advisor and provides a variety of alternative healing techniques in his practice.