Tinea versicolor, also referred to as pityriasis versicolor, may be a common non-cancerous (benign) skin condition caused by surface (superficial) infection with a yeast that commonly lives on the skin. In the right conditions, like warm, oily, and moist skin, the yeast (Malassezia) can overgrow and cause a rash consisting of tan, pink, brown, or white flaky patches. Although it's an infection, tinea versicolor isn't contagious, because the yeast is found commonly within the environment.
Who's at risk?
Tinea versicolor can develop in people from adolescence and beyond, of all races, and of either sex.
However, tinea versicolor is most ordinarily found in tropical areas with high humidity and high temperatures. In milder climates, teens and young adults are affected most often . Tinea versicolor is rare in young children or in adults older than 65.
Some conditions make tinea versicolor more likely to occur:
Ø Living in a warm, humid climate
Ø Having oily skin
Ø Sweating frequently or excessively
Ø Using corticosteroids (cortisone)
Ø Taking medications that weaken the immune system
Signs and Symptoms
The most common locations for tinea versicolor include:
Ø Chest and upper back
Ø Upper arms
Tinea versicolor appears as many white, pink, salmon-colored, tan, or brown patches ranging in size from 1 to three cm. The individual lesions can join together to form large patches. Most lesions have a really fine, flaky surface (scale).
The yeast that causes the condition produces a substance which will temporarily bleach the underlying skin to a lighter color. Even after the infection has gone away, the spots could also be visible as lighter (hypopigmented) patches on the skin which will not get their normal color back for several months. These hypopigmented spots do not tan normally. The hypopigmented areas are more obvious in darker-skinned people.
Even if the colour has not returned to normal after treatment, the flakiness of the skin should have resolved.
Tinea versicolor doesn't usually cause any symptoms, though some people report minor itching, especially once they get sweaty.
If you think that you simply have tinea versicolor, you would possibly try an over-the-counter antifungal cream like terbinafine, clotrimazole, or miconazole. An over-the-counter shampoo containing selenium sulfide can be used as a lotion by applying it to the affected areas overnight and rinsing it off in the morning. However, if the condition doesn't seem to be recuperating after 2 weeks of daily treatment, see a dermatologist or another physician for evaluation.
If you've got been treated for tinea versicolor, avoid wearing tight, restrictive clothing. Also, sun exposure may make the light-colored areas more apparent, so avoid sun exposure or wear sunscreen until the spots have returned to their normal color.
When to Seek Medical Care
If the above self-care measures do not work or if you develop a rash all over that seems to be getting worse, see your doctor.
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
To confirm the diagnosis, your physician might scrape a number of the surface skin material (scales) onto a glass slide and examine them under a microscope. This procedure, called a KOH (potassium hydroxide) preparation, allows the doctor to seem for tell-tale signs of yeast infection.
Once a diagnosis of tinea versicolor has been confirmed, the physician may recommend one among the subsequent treatments:
Ø Selenium sulfide lotion (or shampoo, which can be used as a lotion and then rinsed off)
Ø Pyrithione zinc shampoo (used as a lotion and then rinsed off)
Ø Antifungal cream or lotion such as ketoconazole, econazole, oxiconazole, or ciclopirox
Ø Antifungal pills such as ketoconazole, fluconazole, or itraconazole
Recurrence of the infection after treatment is common. Because some people are more likely than others to get the infection, your doctor may recommend a preventive or maintenance treatment to use during the warmer, more humid months, consisting of antifungal cream, lotion, or shampoo, applied hebdomadally or two.
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