Tinea versicolor

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Definition

What is tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a condition occurs when you get the fungus Malassezia, a type of yeast found on the surface of the skin. Generally, it is a fungus that normally lives on your skin and doesn’t cause any health problems. In fact, many of the microbiota (or microscopic organisms), including yeasts like Malassezia, play a role in protecting you from infections and other pathogens that can cause harm or disease. They live alongside your body’s cells in symbiotic relationships, with skin cells and tiny organisms supporting and benefiting each other.

Sometimes, however, this yeast can grow out of control and affect the natural color or pigmentation of your skin. When this happens, you may develop patches of skin that are lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. This condition, which isn’t contagious, is known as tinea versicolor, or pityriasis versicolor.

The condition occurs when a type of yeast from the Malassezia family causes an infection or suppresses your immune system.

How common is tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor can occur in people from all ethnic backgrounds, and it’s more common in adolescents and young adults. Adults are more likely to develop tinea versicolor if they visit an area with a subtropical climate.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?

One of the most noticeable signs and symptoms of tinea versicolor is discolored patches of skin, and these patches usually appear on the arms, chest, neck, or back. These patches may be:

  • Lighter (more common) or darker than the surrounding skin
  • Pink, red, tan, or brown
  • Dry, itchy, and scaly
  • More prominent with tanning
  • Prone to disappear in cooler, less humid weather

Tinea versicolor that develops in people with dark skin may result in the loss of skin color, known as hypopigmentation. For some people, the skin may darken instead of lighten. This condition is known as hyperpigmentation.

Some individuals who develop tinea versicolor don’t have any significant changes in their skin color or appearance.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Your skin doesn’t improve with self-care measures
  • The fungal infection returns
  • The patches cover large areas of your body

Causes

What causes tinea versicolor?

The cause of tinea versicolor is when Malassezia grows rapidly and uncontrollably on the surface of the skin. However, doctors aren’t still sure why this occurs. Several factors may boost the growth of this yeast on the skin, including:

  • Hot and humid weather
  • Excessive sweating
  • Oily skin
  • A weakened immune system
  • Hormonal changes

Risk factors

What increases my risk for tinea versicolor?

There are many risk factors for health condition, such as:

  • A family history of tinea versicolor
  • Excessive sweating
  • A humid, warm climate
  • A weak immune system
  • Taking medications that weaken the immune system
  • Some types of cancer

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed. And there are some additional procedure can enable your doctor to detect tinea versicolor:

  • Your doctor may take a skin scraping. A skin scraping removes cells from your skin for testing by scraping the skin gently. The cells are viewed under a microscope to see if they contain the yeast that causes this condition.
  • Your doctor might also take a biopsy, or tissue sample, of the affected skin and test for fungi on the outer skin layer. A sample of the fungus on the skin can also be tested in a fungal culture to see if you have the condition.
  • Your doctor may also use a Wood’s lamp to look at your skin. This special machine, which uses ultraviolet light. If yeast is present, the affected skin will appear yellow or green under the light.

How is tinea versicolor treated?

Depending on the severity of your condition, the doctor will determine the eligible treatment options.

In some mild cases, you may choose to treat your condition at home. OTC antifungal creams or shampoos may be effective for killing the infection.

If you seek medical attention for tinea versicolor, your doctor may prescribe different medications, such as topical creams that can be applied directly to the skin.

Your doctor may also prescribe pills to treat tinea versicolor.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage tinea versicolor?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with tinea versicolor:

  • Avoid excessive heat
  • Avoid tanning or excessive sun exposure. . A tan makes tinea versicolor easier to see.
  • Avoidexcessive sweating
  • Stop using skin care products that are oily. Use products that say non-oily or non-comedogenic.
  • Wear loose clothes. Nothing should feel tight.
  • Do not use a tanning bed or sun lamp. Again, a tan makes tinea versicolor easier to see.
  • You can also help prevent tinea versicolor by using a prescription-strength skin treatment during times of the year when you’re most susceptible to it.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 10, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.