Introduction to Tinea Versicolor

November 12, 2012

Introduction to Tinea Versicolor

This is a non-contagious infection of the skin caused by fungi. There is a type of yeast that lives naturally on everyone’s skin but if it begins to grow excessively, it will cause a rash over the affected area. There are certain factors that can make some people more prone to the infection than others including oily skin, excessive sweating, a weak immune system and living in a hot climate. The condition can affect people of all ages and skin colours but occurs most commonly in teenagers and young adults.

Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

The increased growth of the yeast causes a release of acidic bleach, which leads to the skin to become patchy and a different colour in some areas. This is the primary sign of tinea versicolor but more symptoms include:

  • Patches can occur white, pink, brown or red or a slightly darker or lighter shade than the surrounding skin

  • Areas of skin that don’t tan in the same way the surrounding skin does

  • Spots, which occur most often on the neck, chest, back and arms although can occur anywhere

Symptoms can occur at any time of year but are most likely to develop during periods of warm, humid weather and then disappear in the cooler seasons. A doctor will usually be able to make a diagnosis based on the visual appearance of the symptoms. A UV light may sometimes be used to reveal affected areas. A skin sample may also be taken so that it can be studied under a microscope.

Treatment of Tinea Versicolor

Creams, lotions and shampoo’s are often the best treatments used for this condition. There are also medicines that can be taken in the form of pills but the chosen treatment will depend on the severity of the symptoms as well as location. Topical anti-fungals can be applied directly onto the skin in the affected area and will help to control the growth of the yeast on the skin. There are both over the counter products containing the ingredients selenium sulfide, miconazole and clotrimazole and prescription options available when these are not sufficient. Anti-fungal pills are used to treat the more severe cases or those that are recurrent. They often work quicker at treating the condition than topical creams. They are only available by prescription, however and may cause side effects. Treatment of tinea versicolor work effectively and quickly to resolve the infection but the skin may remain discoloured for up to several months.

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