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Tinea versicolor

Definition

Tinea versicolor is a long-term (chronic) fungal infection of the skin.

Alternative Names

Pityriasis versicolor

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Tinea versicolor is fairly common. It is caused by a type of yeast fungus called Pityrosporum ovale. THis fungus is normally found on human skin. It only causes a problem in certain settings.

The condition is most common in adolescent  boys and young adult men. It typically occurs in hot climates.

Symptoms

The main symptom is patches of discolored skin that:

  • Have sharp borders (edges) and fine scales
  • Are often dark reddish-tan in color
  • Are found on the back, underarms, upper arms, chest, and neck
  • Do not darken in the sun so may appear lighter than surrounding healthy skin

African Americans may have a loss of skin color (hypopigmentation) or an increase in skin color (hyperpigmentation).

Other symptoms include:

Signs and tests

The health care provider will examine a skin scraping that is examined under a microscope to look for the yeast.

Treatment

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.

Expectations (prognosis)

Tinea versicolor is easily treated. Changes in skin color may last for months. The condition may come back during warm weather.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you develop symptoms of tinea versicolor.

Prevention

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.

 

References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 15.

Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis and other superficial mycoses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2009:chap 267.


Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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