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Health Information

Dermatology

Tinea Versicolor

What is tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin infection characterized by lighter or darker patches on the skin. Patches are most often found on the chest or back and prevent the skin from tanning evenly. It occurs mostly in adolescence and early adulthood, but it can occur at any time.

What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?

Usually, the only symptom of tinea versicolor is the white or light brown patches. Patches may scale slightly, but rarely itch or hurt. Other common characteristics of the rash include the following:

  • white, pink, or brown patches
  • infection only on the top layers of the skin
  • the rash usually occurs on the trunk
  • the rash does not usually occur on the face
  • patches worsen in the heat, humidity, or if you are on steroid therapy or has a weakened immune system
  • patches are most noticeable in the summer

The symptoms of tinea versicolor may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?

Tinea versicolor is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination. The patches seen with this condition are unique, and usually allow the diagnosis to be made on physical examination. In addition, your physician may use an ultraviolet light to see the patches more clearly. Also, your physician may do skin scrapings of the lesions to help confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment for tinea versicolor:

Specific treatment for tinea versicolor will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the condition
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment usually includes the use of dandruff shampoo on the skin, as prescribed by your physician. The shampoo is left on the skin overnight and washed off in the morning. To be effective, the shampoo treatment may be required for several nights. Tinea versicolor usually recurs, requiring additional treatments. Your physician may also prescribe topical creams or oral antifungal medications. It is also important to know that improvement in the skin may only be temporary, and a recurrence of the condition is possible. Your physician may also recommend using the shampoo monthly to help prevent recurrences. The treatment will not bring the normal color back to the skin immediately. This will occur naturally and may take several months.

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