Tinea Versicolor | Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options



Back affected by Tinea Versicolor

Tinea Versicolor is a superficial fungal infection that causes discolored patches on your skin. It is caused by a type of yeast that exists on your skin naturally. The overgrowth of this yeast causes the skin condition which manifests as discolored patches. The trunk and shoulders are the most commonly affected areas, and these patches may be lighter or darker in color than the surrounding skin. 

Pityriasis Versicolor is an alternative name for Tinea Versicolor that some specialists prefer because Tinea technically refers to a non-yeast, dermatophyte fungal infections, the type of fungus that affects the body (Tinea corporis, also known as ringworm), feet (Tinea pedis, also known as athlete's foot), or groin (Tinea cruris, referred to as jock itch). 

Tinea Versicolor is most commonly seen in teenagers and young adults. Tinea Versicolor treatment is available and if left untreated may become worse if exposed to the sun and due to other factors like sweating and natural progression. Tinea Versicolor is neither unpleasant nor contagious. However, it has the potential to cause negative psychological impact or self-confidence.

Other Types of Tinea Infections

Fungal infection of Tinea Capitis

  • Tinea Corporis: This can happen anywhere on the body or face. However, it is more common in the folds or flexural areas  of the skin. It's also more prevalent in hot and humid climates. Tinea corporis can spread quickly among children in daycare settings since it is asymptomatic. 
  • Tinea Pedis: This form is most commonly found on the feet and between the toes. Sweating, leaving the feet wet after swimming or bathing, wearing tight socks and shoes, and warm weather are all possible causes.
  • Tinea Cruris: Tinea cruris, sometimes known as "jock itch," affects the medial side of the upper thighs (groin). Tinea cruris, unlike other yeast infections such as candida, rarely affects the scrotum or the penis. This dermatophyte infection affects men more than women, and children can also sometimes be affected.
  • Tinea Capitis: Tinea capitis, sometimes known as "scalp ringworm," typically affects young school-going children. One or more annular regions of inflammatory or noninflammatory hairfall are common. Trichophyton tonsurans infection causes non-inflamed areas to look like black spots, which are remnants of diseased hair shafts that have broken off at the scalp.
  • Tinea Favosa: Tinea capitis favosa, often known as favus of the scalp, is a chronic dermatophyte infection of the scalp. Trichophyton schoenleinii, an anthropophilic dermatophyte, is the most common cause of favus. The presence of scutula and extensive alopecia distinguish it.

Tinea Versicolor Symptoms


Boy’s face depicting symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

Because of the acidic bleach produced by the developing yeast, some regions of the skin seem to be of a different color than the surrounding skin. Individual spots or patches can be present. The following are some of the infection's specific signs and symptoms:

  • White, pink, red, or brown patches that are lighter or darker than the surrounding skin.
  • Spots that don't tan as well as the rest of your body.
  • Spots that appear more prominently when you tan.
  • Spots that can appear anywhere on your body, but are more frequent on the neck, chest, back, and arms.
  • Dry, scaly spots that may itch or pain, though this is uncommon.

 Back with spots

During chilly weather, the spots may fade, but during hot and humid weather, they may become worse. Tinea Versicolor, which generally develops in people having a  dark skin tone, can cause hypopigmentation, or light color patches. Some people may develop dark patches rather than light ones. Hyperpigmentation is the medical term for this condition. Some people with Tinea Versicolor don't notice any noticeable changes in their skin color or texture. You may have itchy skin in addition to changes in the color of your skin. It is recommended to start Tinea Versicolor treatment at the earliest. 

Risk factors for Tinea Versicolor:

Several environmental and biological factors can increase your risk of developing this condition, including:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Residing in a hot, humid climate
  • A weak immune system
  • Taking immunosuppressive drugs

Is Tinea Versicolor Contagious?

Patients should be educated that Tinea Versicolor is caused by a fungus that is naturally found on the skin's surface and so is not contagious. The disorder leaves no permanent scars or pigmentary changes, and any skin color changes fade away after 1-2 months of starting treatment. However, whenever a considerable change is observed in the skin, the individual should consult a dermatologist and ask for Tinea Versicolor treatment. 

Which type of specialists treat Tinea Versicolor?

Tinea Versicolor treatment can be done by any specialist, including all primary-care specialists (family practitioners, pediatricians, and internists). Atypical instances and those that aren't responding to standard treatment should be sent to a dermatologist who can provide alternative treatments and diagnosis. Always ensure you meet a dermatologist who has experience in treating Tinea Versicolor. At SkyMD, you can find the most experienced doctors by simply registering on the app. 

Tinea Versicolor Causes Pityriasis Versicolor


Pityriasis Versicolor is caused by the mycelial development of Malassezia fungus. Malassezia is a kind of a fungus that is present on the skin as a commensal as part of  the natural microbiome (microorganisms found on normal skin). They are lipid-dependent for survival. Malassezia has been identified as fourteen different species. M. globosa, M. restricta, and M. sympodialis are the most prevalent species which cause Pityriasis Versicolor. 

Malassezia usually grows sparsely in seborrhoeic areas (scalp, face, and chest) and does not cause a rash. Why they grow more aggressively on the skin surface of patients with Pityriasis Versicolor remains largely unknown. A tryptophan-dependent metabolic pathway is one possibility. In the brown variety of Pityriasis Versicolor, the yeasts cause larger melanosomes (pigment granules) within basal melanocytes. The yeasts are easier to see in scrapings from this type of Pityriasis Versicolor than in scrapings from the white type.

The white or hypopigmented form of Pityriasis Versicolor is hypothesized to be caused by a malassezia-produced substance that diffuses into the epidermis and inhibits melanocyte function. Due to dermatitis generated by malassezia or its metabolites, the pink variety of Pityriasis Versicolor is mildly irritated. Because both are caused by malassezia, pink Pityriasis Versicolor and seborrhoeic dermatitis can coexist.

The following are the primary causes of Pityriasis Versicolor:

  • Oily skin
  • Living in a hot environment
  • Sweating profusely
  • Hormonal alterations
  • Immune system dysfunction

Tinea Versicolor: Diagnosis


If oddly colored spots appear on your skin and you are unable to treat them at home, see your doctor. Your doctor will inspect your skin and may be able to detect Tinea Versicolor just by looking at the patches. Based on the condition, the dermatologist will suggest Tinea Versicolor treatment. Generally, any of the following methods are used to diagnose Tinea Versicolor. 

  • Skin scraping: Your doctor may opt for skin scraping if a diagnosis cannot be made by simple clinical examination of the skin. By gently scraping the skin, the superficial scales from the patches are removed for testing. Under a microscope, the scales are examined to check if they contain the yeast that causes this condition. A potassium hydroxide (KOH) microscopy may be performed by your doctor who will take a skin sample, place it on a microscope slide with a 20 percent KOH solution, and examine it under a microscope for yeast or hyphae fungi.
  • Wood’s Lamp examination: Your doctor may also examine your skin with a Wood's lamp. This ultraviolet-light-emitting equipment is held 4 to 5 inches away from your skin. The damaged skin will appear yellow or green under the light if yeast is present.
  • Skin biopsy: A biopsy, or tissue sample, of the afflicted skin may be taken and tested for fungi on the outer skin layer by your doctor. To see if you have the condition, a sample of the fungus on your skin can be analyzed in a fungal culture.

Tinea Versicolor treatment


If you acquire Tinea Versicolor symptoms, you may choose to self-treat the ailment. Antifungal drugs sold over-the-counter (OTC) can help you arrest the spread of Malassezia and eventually get rid of the discolored spots of skin. However, if these therapies aren't working, you should see an experienced dermatologist. To control your symptoms, you may need to take a prescription medicine.

A dermatologist's recommendation is based on several factors. These factors include the location of Tinea Versicolor on your body, the extent of spread of Tinea Versicolor on your skin, the thickness of the patches, the color of the patch, and the climate. You may choose to treat your ailment at home if your symptoms aren't too severe. Antifungal lotions or shampoos purchased over the counter may be beneficial in controlling and curing the infection. Let us have a look at each of these treatments:

Disclaimer: Before proceeding with any of the Tinea Versicolor treatments mentioned below, do consult with your dermatologist. 

Over-the-counter (OTC) remedies

Clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex), Miconazole (Lotrimin), and Ciclopirox are examples of over-the-counter (OTC) treatments (Ciclodan, Penlac, Loprox). For 10-14 days, apply these twice a day on the patches.

Clotrimazole sprays are available and can be a more convenient treatment option. Another over-the-counter option is 1% selenium sulfide shampoo (Selsun Blue) or 1% ketoconazole shampoo (Nizoral). For two to four weeks, some dermatologists recommend applying them for 15 minutes twice a week. 

Prescribed creams

Many prescription-strength antifungal creams, as well as a stronger type of selenium sulfide (2.5 percent) and prescription-strength ketoconazole shampoo can treat Tinea Versicolor (2 percent ).

Tinea Versicolor oral therapy can be followed simply. Fluconazole (Diflucan) or Itraconazole (Sporanox) at two dosages each week for four weeks can be very successful. Because several common drugs, such as Alprazolam (Xanax) and Montelukast (Singulair), may interfere with Fluconazole, your doctor will need to know what else you're taking before prescribing Fluconazole for Tinea Versicolor.

Note: Please take the dosage as prescribed by the dermatologist.

Tinea Versicolor: Home Remedies

Though many people claim that using various natural medicines have helped them in healing Tinea Versicolor, there is no validation that these remedies will be a definite success. Tinea Versicolor treatment can be done with a variety of home remedies using natural ingredients. Many home remedies have mild antibiotic and antifungal properties that may be beneficial, but they can also cause problems.

Use yogurt and probiotics to stave off fungal infections. Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties and can be used to treat skin infections. Aloe vera, turmeric and garlic are also good for skin infection prevention and treatment. A few drops of oregano oil can be used as an antifungal agent to prevent the spread of fungus. Having said this, garlic is also a skin irritant as can be turmeric and apple cider vinegar when used excessively.


Tinea Versicolor Treatment and Prevention


The easiest way to avoid Tinea Versicolor is to maintain good skin hygiene.. The yeast that causes this infection lives on your skin naturally. Bathing and drying your skin reduces the chances of getting an infection. Here are some measures to keep in mind when dealing with Tinea Versicolor:

  • Avoid using products which lead to oily skin.
  • Cut down on the amount of time you spend in the sun. It could start or aggravate an episode, and a tan makes the rash more obvious.
  • If you must go out, use an anti-fungal shampoo daily for a couple of days before sun exposure.
  • Every day, apply sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum, non-greasy sunscreen with at least a 30 sun protection factor (SPF).
  • Consider using an anti dandruff shampoo that contains selenium sulfide.
  • Dress comfortably.
  • To reduce perspiration, choose a breathable fabric like cotton.

Concluding Note
If Tinea Versicolor is diagnosed, therapy will enhance your long-term prognosis. Even after the infection has been eradicated, your skin may stay discolored for several weeks or months after therapy. When the weather gets warmer and more humid, your infection may recur. If your disease worsens, your dermatologist may prescribe medicine once or twice a month to keep you from developing symptoms.

Make an appointment with your dermatologist if you develop Tinea Versicolor symptoms. Our doctors at SkyMD are highly qualified and will be able to tell you if you have this condition and what treatment choices are available to you. To meet our dermatologist, all you need to do is simply download our app, fill out the necessary information, and you'll be ready for your appointment through video call or chat, whichever you find convenient.

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