What Is Tinea Versicolor?
Tinea versicolor is also called pityriasis versicolor, a common skin condition caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast. The overgrowth causes uneven skin color and scaling that may be mildly itchy and unsightly. Tinea versicolor is not contagious. Pigment changes may last for months after treatment. The condition may come back during the warm months.
Who Gets Tinea Versicolor?
The yeast that causes tinea versicolor lives on everyone’s skin. It is not clear why the yeast overgrows on some people’s skin and not others. We do know the following about tinea versicolor:
- People of all skin colors get it.
- Teens and young adults are most susceptible because they have oily skin.
- Older adults and children rarely get it unless they live in a tropical or subtropical area.
- People who live in non-tropical areas often see tinea versicolor disappear during the cool, dry months.
What Causes Tinea Versicolor?
Yeast normally live on our skin. When the yeast overgrows, it causes the skin disease tinea versicolor. It is believed that the following can cause the yeast to overgrow:
- Hot, humid weather.
- Lots of sweating.
- Oily skin.
- A weakened immune system.
Signs & Symptoms
The first sign of tinea versicolor is often spots on the skin. The other signs and symptoms are:
- The spots are lighter (sometimes darker) than the surrounding skin. The color of the spots can be white, pink, salmon, red, tan, or brown.
- The spots can appear anywhere on the body.
- Spots can be dry and scaly.
- Skin may itch where the spots appear.
- Spots become more noticeable as the skin tans. The yeast prevents the skin from tanning.
- Spots grow slowly.
- As the yeast grows, the spots can combine and form patches of lighter (or darker) skin.
- The spots may disappear when the temperature drops and return in the spring or summer when the air gets warm and humid.
Sometimes the spots are so faint that people do not realize they have tinea versicolor. If tinea versicolor causes light spots on the skin, it can be mistaken for vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin disease that causes the skin to lose its color.
Prevention: Tinea versicolor may be associated with excessive perspiration. People with tinea versicolor may notice that it comes back or worsens during hot summer months. Avoiding warm, humid climates is recommended.
Treatment options: Treatment for tinea versicolor may include:
- Medicine applied to the skin: This is the most common treatment. There are anti-fungal shampoos, soaps, creams, and lotions that can keep the yeast under control. The active ingredient in these medicines is often selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or pyrithione zinc.
- Medicated cleansers: Tinea versicolor often returns, especially when a person lives in a place that is warm and humid. Using a medicated cleanser once or twice a month, especially during warm and humid periods, can prevent the yeast from overgrowing again.
- Anti-fungal pills: A dermatologist may prescribe these pills if the tinea versicolor covers a large area of the body, is thick, or often returns after it is treated. These pills are taken for a short time. But anti-fungal pills can cause unwanted side effects. They can interfere with other medicine that you take. A dermatologist will monitor a patient who takes this medicine.
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