Overview

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal infection of the skin. The fungus interferes with the normal pigmentation of the skin, resulting in small, discolored patches. These patches may be lighter or darker in color than the surrounding skin and most commonly affect the trunk and shoulders.

Tinea versicolor (TIN-ee-uh vur-si-KUL-ur), occurs most frequently in teens and young adults. Sun exposure may make tinea versicolor more apparent. Tinea versicolor, which is also called pityriasis versicolor, is not painful or contagious. But it can lead to emotional distress or self-consciousness.

Antifungal creams, lotions or shampoos can help treat tinea versicolor. But even after successful treatment, skin color may remain uneven for several weeks or months. Tinea versicolor often recurs, especially in warm, humid weather.

Symptoms

Tinea versicolor signs and symptoms include:

  • Patches of skin discoloration, usually on the back, chest, neck and upper arms, which may appear lighter or darker than usual
  • Mild itching
  • Scaling

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if:

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

Causes

The fungus that causes tinea versicolor can be found on healthy skin. It only starts causing problems when the fungus overgrows. A number of factors may trigger this growth, including:

  • Hot, humid weather
  • Oily skin
  • Hormonal changes
  • Weakened immune system

Prevention

To help prevent tinea versicolor from returning, your doctor can prescribe a skin or oral treatment that you use once or twice a month. You may need to use these just during warm and humid months. Preventive treatments include:

  • Selenium sulfide (Selsun) 2.5 percent lotion or shampoo
  • Ketoconazole (Ketoconazole, Nizoral, others) cream, gel, shampoo
  • Itraconazole (Onmel, Sporanox) tablets, capsules or oral solution
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan) tablets or oral solution
April 22, 2015
References
  1. Ferri FF. Tinea versicolor. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2015: 5 Books in 1. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2015. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  2. Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Yeast infections: Candidiasis, tinea (pityriasis) versicolor and malassezia (pityrosporum) folliculitis. In: Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  3. Bamford J, et al. Interventions for the treatment of pityriasis versicolor. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://ovidsp.tx.ovid.com/sp-3.14.0b/ovidweb.cgi. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  4. AskMayoExpert. Superficial fungal infections. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
  5. Tinea versicolor. American Academy of Dermatology. www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed March 9, 2015.
  6. Tinea versicolor. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic_disorders/fungal_skin_infections/tinea_versicolor.html. Accessed March 9, 2015.