Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection that occurs when yeast that grows on our skin spirals out of control. The yeast lives in our pores. Under certain circumstances, the yeast can shift from its form from a round shape to a string-like branching shape. The yeast then can migrate under the skin and produce a substance that can change the amount of pigment in new skin cells. Also known as pityriasis versicolor, this skin disease occurs when the yeast grows out of control. As a result, a rash will appear on the skin.
Contributing Factors to Tinea Versicolor:
Because the yeast grows naturally on your skin, tinea versicolor is not contagious. The condition can affect people of any skin color. It’s more likely to affect teens and young adults.
The skin rash is made up of scattered pink, tan, brown or white patches on the skin. Each person will usually have only one of the colors. These patches are usually flat, without texture, but may flake. They may be small round spots or areas that start smaller then get larger and combine with other areas. The rash may be itchy, especially when a person is hot or sweaty. The skin spots may be more obvious after skin has been exposed to the sun, because these areas do not tan evenly.
The rash occurs more readily in hot, humid conditions therefore you should keep your skin as dry and cool as possible when you are in this climate. Tinea versicolor can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or by coming in contact with contaminated articles such as towels, clothing or bedding.
The tinea versicolor rash continues to return in 40% to 60% of people. If you have had more than 1 episode of tinea versicolor, skin treatment every 2 weeks with a shampoo that destroys yeast (such as anti-dandruff shampoos that contain selenium sulfide) can help to prevent the rash from recurring. This may be especially helpful prior to travel to a tropical climate or during months with warm weather. Another option is to take antifungal medicines by mouth to prevent the rash from returning.
There are treatment options available for tinea versicolor. Because the yeast inhabits the top layer of the skin, topical antifungal medications are very effective. If the rash is extensive, oral antifungal medications may be needed. Tinea versicolor has a recurrence rate of 80% after 2 years. Periodic use of medications may be needed to suppress the rash.
Topical antifungal medications are usually the first treatment of choice for tinea versicolor. These products are applied directly to your skin and may be in the form of lotions, shampoos, creams, or soaps. They keep the growth of the yeast under control. Over-the-counter anti-fungal topical products containing ingredients such as selenium sulfide, miconazole, clotrimazole, and terbinafine are available. But sometimes prescription medications may be needed.
While oral antifungal medications can effectively treat this skin condition, they can also cause side effects such as nausea or reversible liver damage, but these side effects are not common with the short courses of therapy used for tinea versicolor.