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Tinea versicolor

  • Definition
  • Alternative Names
    • Pityriasis versicolor

  • Causes
    • Tinea versicolor is fairly common. It is caused by a type of 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 to 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 the surrounding healthy skin

      African Americans may have a loss of skin color or an increase in skin color.

      Other symptoms include:

  • Exams and Tests
    • Your health care provider will examine a skin scraping under a microscope to look for the fungus.

  • Treatment
    • The condition is treated with antifungal medicine that is either applied to the skin or taken by mouth.

      Applying over-the-counter dandruff shampoo to the skin for 10 minutes each day in the shower is another treatment option.

  • Outlook (Prognosis)
    • Tinea versicolor is easy to treat. Changes in skin color may last for months. The condition may come back during warm weather.

  • When to Contact a Medical Professional
    • 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
    • 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.

      James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Diseases resulting from fungi and yeasts. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 15.