Tinea versicolor (TIN-ee-uh vur-si-KUL-ur), also called pityriasis versicolor, is a common fungal infection of the skin. The fungus interferes with the normal pigmentation of the skin, resulting in small, discolored patches.
Tinea versicolor is most common in teens and young adults. Sun exposure may make tinea versicolor more apparent.
Antifungal creams, lotions or shampoos can help treat tinea versicolor. But even after successful treatment, skin color may remain uneven for several weeks until repigmentation occurs and tinea versicolor may return, especially in warm humid weather.
Healthy skin may normally have the fungus that causes this disorder growing in the area where hair follicles open onto the skin surface. Tinea versicolor occurs when the fungus becomes overgrown. A number of factors may trigger this growth, including:
• Hot, humid weather
• Excessive sweating
• Oily skin
• Hormonal changes
• Immunosuppression (when your immune system is unable to protect your body from the growth of yeast or fungus on your skin or elsewhere)
Over-the-counter fungal creams or shampoos can often clear up tinea versicolor. If you don't notice any improvement after about a month of treatment, be sure to see your doctor. Most fungal infections respond well to these topical agents, which include:
• Selenium sulfide shampoo (Selsun Blue)
• Miconazole (Monistat-Derm)
• Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
• Terbinafine (Lamisil)
Wash and dry the affected area. Then, apply a thin layer of the topical agent once or twice a day for at least two weeks. If you're using shampoo, rinse it off after waiting five to 10 minutes. If you don't see an improvement after four weeks, see your doctor. You may need a stronger medication.
Your doctor can diagnose tinea versicolor with a skin exam. If there's any doubt, he or she may take skin scrapings from the infected area and view them under a microscope.
If tinea versicolor is severe or doesn't respond to over-the-counter antifungal medicine, you may need a prescription-strength topical or oral medication. Such medications for tinea versicolor treatment include:
• Selenium sulfide 2.5 percent lotion