Tinea versicolor

Tinea versicolor or pityriasis versicolor is a common, mild yeast infection of the skin, which causes oval and scaly spots. These spots are usually pale or pinkish in color.

Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

The symptoms of tinea versicolor are:

  • Oval spots with diameter of 1/4-in to 1 in.
  • Scaly
  • Multiple spots that can merge and cover a large area of the skin
  • Pale pink or tan in color that is more noticeable after suntanning or on people with darker skin
  • Itching that gets worse with sweating

These spots occur on areas of the skin that have large amounts of sebaceous or oil glands, such as:

  • Upper chest
  • Back
  • Neck
  • Upper arm
  • Face (occassionally)

The spots may disappear during the cold winter season and reappear when the weather becomes warm and humid.

Cause of Tinea Versicolor

This mild infection is caused by a slow-growing yeast called Malassezia furfur or Pityrosporum orbiculare. This yeast normally grows on the skin without causing any problem. However, in warm and humid environment, it grows in abundance to cause an infection.

Malassezia furfur, the yeast that causes tinea versicolor
Tinea versicolor causing Malassezia furfur yeast.

Who Gets It?

Most people with tinea versicolor are adolescents and young adults. This condition is more prevalent in warm and humid climates.

In the United States, it is estimated that 2 to 8% of the population has tinea versicolor.

Tinea Versicolor Treatment

Treatments for tinea versicolor include:

  • Applying over-the-counter shampoo containing 1% selenium sulfide on the affected areas for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing. This should be done daily for 2 weeks, and once a week afterwards.

  • Prescription topical antifungal lotion containing 2.5% selenium sulfide and 2% ketoconazole, with similar applications as above.

  • Oral antifungal medications, taken for about 1 week.

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