Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor refers to a widely occurring, undamaging fungal skin infection. It occurs in most adults and is caused by the Malassezia furfur yeast, which resides in the skin of a majority of individuals without causing health complications. Occasionally, tinea versicolor is referred to by its second name, i.e. pityriasis versicolor.

Tinea versicolor leads to the growth of slender, faded, scaly patches on the skin which can be seen under a microscope. The disorder is not contagious. The infection by the fungus only changes the degree of skin pigmentation, with the affected sites bearing a skin color that is darker or lighter as compared to the adjacent regions. This skin abnormality is clearly visible under sunlight

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Hormonal disturbances, elevated levels of humidity in the atmosphere and changes in the immune system can trigger an episode of tinea versicolor. It is mostly observed to affect teenagers and adults, without leading to the development of other medical irregularities

It is possible to cure tinea versicolor with different medications. However, drug therapy does not guarantee prevention of a relapse. The infection may be treated with antifungal lotions, creams and shampoos. However, the anomalies of tinea versicolor may prevail for several weeks even after successful treatment. Individuals residing in tropical climates should have excellent personal hygiene to avoid the disease.

Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

A few signs and symptoms of tinea versicolor are discussed below:

  • Discolored patches may be noticed on the skin. They may be white, brownish, pink, dark or tanned. Such patches disappear after treatment
  • The skin affected by tinea versicolor may experience a lighter hue as opposed to the nearby regions. This is because of the action of chemicals made by the fungus, which suppress the production of skin pigments.
  • There is no scarring and no permanent change in the color of the affected skin
  • The infection may look like a thin sheet of tissue
  • The discolored patches of tinea versicolor form at a slow pace and can be easily viewed when exposed to sunlight
  • Minor itchiness may be present
  • The color of the affected skin changes back to its original tone post treatment, but it generally occurs several months after the cure.
  • The disease can affect people of all races, regardless of the skin color
  • Individuals with darker skin may experience more prevalent tinea versicolor symptoms
  • Tinea versicolor is more common in warm and humid places.  Most cases of the fungal infection are found to affect the neck, back, upper arms, chest and other regions comprising of skin creases and folds


  • Tinea versicolor is caused due to a yeast infection. The culprit pathogen is called Malassezia furfur, which is usually detected on the skin of most people. The hair follicles which burst out from the skin’s surface are the ideal places for the fungus to develop and flourish. It is also possible for healthy skins to experience the fungal infection. When there is increased buildup of the fungus, then it results in the formation of tinea versicolor and the distinct patches of discolored skin

The below listed risk factors can increase the susceptibility to developing tinea versicolor:

  • Increased sweating
  • Oily skin
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • High levels of humidity and warmer climates
  • Changes in the immune system, which impair it from effectively defending the body against fungal invasions

Tinea Versicolor Treatment

Tinea versicolor is usually treated with non-prescription medications available over the counter. In case intake of the traditional medications does not resolve the condition, then patients need to seek medical attention

The below listed drugs may be prescribed by a physician to cure a case of tinea versicolor:

  • Topical medications such as ketoconazole, ciclopirox, and/or 2.5 percent selenium sulfide lotion
  • Oral drugs such as ketoconazole, itraconazole, or fluconazole

As noted above, a successful cure of tinea versicolor may not result in immediate revision of the skin color to normal. That may happen after a few months. It may also be noted that the presence of warm and humid weather can increase the risk or a relapse. Persistent instances of tinea versicolor may require the intake of medicines every two months by the patient to prevent recurrence of the disorder

Minor infections of tinea versicolor can be easily alleviated via antifungal lotions, creams, or shampoos bought from over the counter. A few types of medications that help in controlling the symptoms include miconazole clotrimazole, selenium sulfide shampoo, and terbinafine

The areas of skin experiencing the fungal infection have to be first cleaned. Then patients must apply the topical agents listed above on the discolored patches twice a day for about 2 weeks. Topical drugs that come in the form of shampoos have to be washed off after 10 minutes. When a patient does not get any relief from the signs of tinea versicolor even after using the topical drugs for a period of 4 weeks, then he/she must consult a physician or a skin specialist for stronger medicines.

Tinea Versicolor Pictures

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