Tinea (Pityriasis) Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal infection of the skin. The fungus interferes with the normal pigmentation of the skin, resulting in small, discolored patches. These patches may be lighter or darker in color than the surrounding skin and most commonly affect the trunk and shoulders.

Symptoms

Tinea versicolor signs and symptoms include:

  • Patches of skin discoloration, usually on the back, chest, neck and upper arms, which may appear lighter or darker than usual
  • Mild itching
  • Scaling

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

  • Your skin doesn’t improve with self-care measures
  • The fungal infection returns
  • The patches cover large areas of your body

Causes

The fungus that causes tinea versicolor can be found on healthy skin. It only starts causing problems when the fungus overgrows. A number of factors may trigger this growth, including:

  • Hot, humid weather
  • Oily skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • Weakened immune system

Tests and diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose tinea versicolor by looking at it. If there’s any doubt, he or she may take skin scrapings from the infected area and view them under a microscope.

Treatments and drugs

If tinea versicolor is severe or doesn’t respond to over-the-counter antifungal medicine, you may need a prescription-strength medication. Some of these medications are topical preparations that you rub on your skin. Others are drugs that you swallow. Examples include:

  • Ciclopirox cream, gel or shampoo
  • Fluconazole tablets or oral solution
  • Itraconazole tablets, capsules or oral solution
  • Ketoconazole cream, gel or shampoo
  • Selenium sulfide 2.5 percent lotion or shampoo

Even after successful treatment, your skin color may remain uneven for several weeks, or even months. Also, the infection may return in hot, humid weather. In persistent cases, you may need to take a medication once or twice a month to prevent the infection from recurring.

Lifestyle and home remedies

For a mild case of tinea versicolor, you can apply an over-the-counter antifungal lotion, cream, ointment or shampoo. Most fungal infections respond well to these topical agents, which include:

  • Clotrimazole cream or lotion
  • Miconazole cream
  • Selenium sulfide 1 percent lotion
  • Terbinafine cream or gel
  • Zinc pyrithione soap

Prevention

To help prevent tinea versicolor from returning, your doctor can prescribe a skin or oral treatment that you use once or twice a month. You may need to use these just during warm and humid months. Preventive treatments include:

  • Selenium sulfide 2.5 percent lotion or shampoo
  • Ketoconazole cream, gel, shampoo
  • Itraconazole tablets, capsules or oral solution
  • Fluconazole tablets or oral solution

 

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