Tinea, also known as ringworm, is a common skin infection with a characteristic ring-like appearance. It is caused by several types of fungus and can appear on different parts of the body including the scalp, chest, feet, groin, face, hands and nails. Tinea is very contagious but easily treated.…
What is tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast that naturally exists on the skin. It mainly affects the trunk of the body and extremities and, unlike other forms of tinea, is not contagious.
Tinea versicolor is caused by a type of fungus, called yeast. Yeast are normally present on the skin in low levels. However, when yeast grow out of control they cause skin irritation. It is not clear why the yeast overgrow on some people and not others, but it tends to occur in people with oily skin, compromised immune systems and those living in tropical, humid areas.
Risk factors for tinea versicolor include:
- Hot, humid weather;
- Oily skin;
- Sweating excessively, and;
- A weakened immune system.
Signs and symptoms
Tinea versicolor typically appears as spots that are lighter than the unaffected skin, although it may also appear as darker spots. The spots can be white, red, pink, brown or tan and may itch, or appear dry and scaly. These spots may disappear in cooler months and reappear in warmer, humid months. Tinea versicolor may cover a small area of the body or spread over entire sections, such as the torso. It usually appears on the arms, neck, thighs, trunk and genitals.
Methods for diagnosis
Although diagnosis is often made based on symptoms alone, the following tests are sometimes done to help your doctor to make a diagnosis:
A yellow-green glow is observed when the affected area is viewed under the ultraviolet light of a Wood's light.
Potassium hydroxide exam
A scraping of your skin from the affected area is added to potassium hydroxide solution and examined under a microscope. Potassium hydroxide destroys only non-fungal cells, making it easier to see if any fungal cells are present in the sample.
A skin biopsy is performed only when other skin infections must be ruled out.
Types of treatment
Tinea versicolor is treated with topical antifungal creams, such as ketoconazole, which are applied directly to the affected area. Oral antifungal medications are used for infections that do not respond well to a topical cream.
Tinea can spread easily to other parts of the body. It can cause breaks in the skin, which may result in permanent scarring or lead to bacterial infections. It can also result in discoloration of the skin, which can last for several months after treatment.
Although treatment for tinea versicolor can usually bring it under control, it is common for it to come back. The skin discoloration can also last for several months after infection has subsided.
As yeast occurs on the skin normally, tinea versicolor cannot be prevented, but yeast overgrowth can be managed by using antifungal agents.
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of the yeast that naturally exists on the skin. It causes a discoloration in the skin.
What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?
Symptoms of tinea versicolor are spots that are lighter or sometimes darker than the unaffected skin. The spots can be white, pink, red brown or tan. They may also itch, and appear dry and scaly. Tinea versicolor may disappear in cooler months and …
What causes tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor occurs when non-contagious yeast that are normally found on the body grow to their mycelial form. It's not understood why the yeast overgrow on some people and not others, but their overgrowth is found more in people who have oily skin, …
Who gets tinea versicolor?
Risk factors for tinea versicolor include: hot, humid weather; oily skin; sweating excessively, and; a weakened immune system.
How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?
Although diagnosis is often made based on symptoms alone, tinea versicolor can also be diagnosed by examining the affected skin under a Wood's light, using the potassium hydroxide solution or from a skin biopsy.
How is tinea versicolor treated?
Tinea versicolor is treated with topical or oral antifungal agents.
Can tinea versicolor be prevented?
Because the yeast that causes tinea versicolor can occur normally on the skin, it cannot be prevented. However, if the yeast overgrow, they can be managed with anti-fungal medications.
Will tinea versicolor clear on its own?
Sometimes tinea versicolor will disappear in cooler months and reappear in warmer months, but this depends on the climate you live in. In general, you need to use anti-fungal medication to treat tinea versicolor.
Is tinea versicolor contagious?
No. Tinea versicolor is not contagious because the yeast are normally present on people's skin. It is only a problem when the yeast grow out of control.