Tinea Versicolor

Definition

Tinea versicolor is a common infection that affects the skin. It is characterized by small, scaly patches with different colors.

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Causes

Tinea versicolor is caused by a fungus. It is a type of dermatomycosis caused by a yeast that affects skin color. The fungus that causes tinea versicolor is normally found in small numbers on the skin and scalp. Overgrowth of the yeast leads to infection.

Risk Factors

Tinea versicolor is more common in adolescents and young adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of tinea versicolor include:

  • Having naturally oily or excessively sweaty skin
  • Living in warm and humid climates
  • Having a weakened immune system

Symptoms

Tinea versicolor may cause:

  • Uneven skin color, with either white or light brown patches
  • Light scaling on affected areas
  • Slight itching, which is worse when the person is hot

Patches that are easier to notice in the summer. Tinea versicolor usually affects the back, chest, and neck. It can result in uneven skin color which can last for months after the infection is gone.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You may need to be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders.

The doctor may use an ultraviolet light to see the patches more clearly. A patch may be scraped and sent for testing.

Treatment

Tinea versicolor is treated with antifungal medication. This may be:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal medication topical medications
    • Lotions or creams with antifungal medications that are used for 2 weeks, such as ketoconazole or miconazole
    • Some treatment usually used as shampoos that are left on for 5-10 minutes and rinsed off, such as selenium sulfide, sulfur salicylic acid, or zinc pyrithione
    • Ask your doctor about the specific directions for the treatment you or your child is using
  • Prescription oral antifungal medications such as
    • Ketoconazole
    • Itraconazole
    • Fluconazole

After the infection is successfully treated, your skin may naturally return to its normal color. This process usually takes several months or up to a few years. The condition may improve in the winter only to return in the summer.

Prevention

If you know you are prone to tinea versicolor, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may prescribe a treatment you can use periodically to keep tinea versicolor from returning.

Revision Information

  • American Academy of Dermatology

    http://www.aad.org

  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

    http://www.niams.nih.gov

  • Dermatology

    http://www.dermatologists.ca

  • The College of Family Physician of Canada

    http://www.cfpc.ca

  • Tinea versicolor. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed November 10, 2014.

  • Tinea versicolor. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed November 19, 2012.

  • Tinea versicolor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 24, 2012. Accessed November 10, 2014.