For more information, call: 573-331-3000

A-Z Health Topics


Return to Index

Tinea Versicolor

(Pityriasis Versicolor)

Definition

Dermatomycosis is a skin infection caused by fungi or yeast. Tinea versicolor is a type of dermatomycosis caused by a yeast that affects skin color.
Tinea Versicolor
si55551196 96472 1
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

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

These factors increase your chance of developing tinea versicolor:
  • Age: adolescents and young adults
  • Skin: more common in people with naturally oily or excessively sweaty skin
  • Climate: more common in warm and humid climates
  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms

Symptoms include:
  • 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 (a dermatologist).
The doctor may use an ultraviolet light to see the patches more clearly. A patch may be scraped and sent for testing.

Treatment

Treatment options for tinea versicolor include the following:

Medications Applied to the Skin

Antifungal creams and shampoos such as selenium sulfide , ketoconazole, and zinc pyrithione are usually the preferred medicines to treat the infection. They are usually applied daily for one to four weeks.

Medications Taken by Mouth

Prescription antifungal medications taken by mouth are convenient. You also do not have to take them for a long period. However, they are more expensive and can cause side effects. Some people cannot take antifungal medications. Tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking and any medical problems you have.
After the infection is successfully treated, your skin may naturally return to its normal color. This process usually takes several months. The condition may improve in the winter only to return in the summer.

Prevention

If you know you are prone to tinea versicolor, try to avoid excess heat or sweating.

RESOURCES

American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases http://www.niams.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The College of Family Physician of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca

The Dermatologist.ca Directory http://www.dermatologists.ca

References

Tinea versicolor. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/tinea-versicolor . Accessed November 19, 2012.

Tinea versicolor. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site1752/mainpageS1752P0.html . Accessed November 19, 2012.

Tinea versicolor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated October 24, 2012. Accessed November 19, 2012.

Revision Information