Tinea versicolor

Also known as pityriasis versicolor, tinea versicolor is a specific kind of fungal skin infection that is identified by an anomalous skin rash. It is caused due to proliferation of a species of yeast which is naturally found on human skin.

The usual pigmentation of skin is adversely affected by tinea versicolor-causing yeast overgrowth leading to the appearance of small discolored blotches on the skin. These abnormal patches on the skin are a shade lighter or darker than the surrounding areas.

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The torso and shoulders are most commonly affected by tinea versicolor. Teenagers and young adults are more susceptible to the infection than others. The abnormal skin rashes may become more noticeable after contact with sunlight.

Tinea versicolor is treated with topical antifungal medications. The discoloration may however continue for several weeks even after a successful cure. Patients may also suffer from a relapse under the right conditions of warm and humid weather.

Symptoms of tinea versicolor

Uncontrolled growth of the causative fungus prevents the body from effectively dealing with the acidic bleach secreted by the yeast. This is what causes the infected skin to turn darker or lighter than the adjacent areas. The skin rashes can occur in groups or as a single anomalous spot.

Listed below are a few usual signs and symptoms of tinea versicolor:

  • Appearance of discolored spots on skin. Such abnormal patches may be white, brown, pink, or red in color. They usually have a lighter or darker hue as compared to nearby skin.
  • The spots often disappear in cooler weather, but can aggravate or make a reappearance in warm and humid conditions.
  • Some patients may experience itching and discomfort, or scaling or dryness of the patches.
  • Tinea versicolor affected skin does not tan like the skin regions unaffected by the fungal infection.
  • The abnormal patches can occur anywhere on the body, but are predominantly found on the neck, chest, back, and arms.

Causes of tinea versicolor

Tinea versicolor is caused due to uncontrolled and rapid growth of a yeast/fungus that is found to naturally live on human skin. There are several factors which can contribute towards proliferation of the fungus, the most common of which are listed below:

  • People with oily skin are more prone to developing tinea versicolor.
  • People living in a tropical region with hot and humid climate are at greater risk.
  • Excessive sweating increases the risk.
  • People with a weakened immune system are also more vulnerable.

The causal fungus naturally occurs on human skin and hence tinea versicolor is not contagious. Teenagers and adults in their 20s and 30s are more prone to developing tinea versicolor.People of all races and skin colors can suffer from this infection.


  • Doctors can diagnose tinea versicolor just by looking at the abnormal patches.Occasionally, they may check the spots under UV light as it causes the infected skin to appear florescent yellowish-green.
  • Doctors may clear any doubts via microscopic examination of affected skin and scales gathered by scraping them off from the infected areas. In the case of children, the physician may collect the specimen skin cells by attaching a clear tape on the patches and then removing it. The sample is then examined in a lab.

Treatment of tinea versicolor

Tinea versicolor infections are treated with oral and topical drugs. The method and range of treatment is devised as per the size, site, and thickness of the infected skin areas.

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A few common ways to treat tinea versicolor are listed below:

  • Use of anti-fungal shampoos, lotions, creams, foam, or soaps:Application of different forms of topical anti-fungal medications can help manage the growth of the yeast. Over the counter anti-fungal creams containing terbinafine, miconazole, clotrimazole, selenium sulfide, zinc, and pyrithione are commonly used. In rare instances, doctors may opt for prescription topical anti-fungal drugs.
  • Use of oral anti-fungal drugs: Recurring or serious cases of tinea versicolor require treatment with anti-fungal pills. Doctors may also prescribe them for fast and simple resolution from tinea versicolor. Such prescription drugs can however cause severe side effects.

All instances of tinea versicolor yeast infections mostly resolve with medical treatment. The skin discoloration may however persist for several months before becoming normal.

It may also be noted that since the fungus naturally occurs on human skin, patients are more likely to suffer from a reoccurrence. Use of medicated cleansers one to two times every month can help prevent a relapse. Those living in tropical regions need to regularly use the cleansers to prevent recurrent episodes.

The below listed self-care guidelines can aid in effective management of the skin infection:

  • Avoid using oily cosmetics.
  • Apply non-oily sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, everyday.
  • Exposure to sunlight can trigger an episode of tinea versicolor or exacerbate a pre-existing one. Hence, limit outdoor activities.
  • Do not wear tight or body-fitting clothes.
  • Wear clothes made from porous and light fabrics to decrease excessive sweating.

Tinea versicolor pictures

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