Tinea Versicolor

What is Tinea Versicolor?

Tinea Versicolor is caused by a superficial yeast fungus called Pityrosporum ovale that is found naturally on human skin. It is characterized by multiple skin patches varying in color from white to brown.  It occurs mainly on the trunk.  It is not dangerous to a person’s health.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Tinea versicolor is common in young adults, especially males.  Symptoms include tan, brown, or white skin patches, with the greatest number occurring on the back, chest and abdomen.  The skin lesions are most noticeable in the summer because the lesions don’t tan (so-called “sun spots”).  There can also be itching and increased sweating.  Most patients seek medical care for tinea versicolor because of cosmetic concerns.

How is Tinea Versicolor diagnosed?

The condition is usually diagnosed by appearance.  Sometimes a skin scraping or use of a Wood’s lamp (the involved areas may have a golden fluorescence) is used to aid in diagnosis.

What treatments are available?

The condition is treated by applying antifungal medicines to the skin. These medicines include clotrimazole, ketoconazole, and miconazole. Anti-fungal medicines you take by mouth can also be used.
Applying over-the-counter dandruff shampoos to the skin for 10 minutes each day in the shower is another treatment option.

Tinea Versicolor is easy to treat. However, the skin may not become repigmented and normal-looking for several months after treatment.

Can Tinea Versicolor be prevented?

Avoid excessive heat or sweating if you have had this condition in the past. You can also use anti-dandruff shampoo on your skin every month to help prevent the problem. Recurrence is very common after any treatment because yeast fungus that causes it is a normal inhabitant on the skin.  Therefore, it’s not uncommon for a patient to have some degree of symptoms off and on for months or even years.