Tinea Versicolor – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Tinea versicolor is a fungus infection that mainly affects the skin of young people. This common condition is unsightly, but it is neither permanent. Do not afraid with it because it is not a serious illness. Tinea versicolor mostly affects skin on the chest and back. It affects only the top layer of the skin. It is a non-contagious disease. It is caused by a yeastlike fungus called Malassezia furfur.

Since the affected skin doesn’t change color well with sun exposure, it usually becomes apparent as white patches during the summer months. In the winter it may seem to disappear, or even seem to become slightly darkened patches as the surrounding skin gets paler (this is where the name versicolor comes from).


Usually Malassezia species grow sparsely in the seborrhoeic areas (scalp, face and chest) without causing a rash. In some individuals they grow more actively on the skin surface, for unknown reasons. A number of factors may trigger this growth, including:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Removal of the adrenal gland
  • Hormonal changes
  • Immunosuppression
  • Malnutrition
  • Burns
  • Oily skin
  • Steroid therapy


Symptoms include:

  • Numerous spots and patches appear on the neck, upper back, and shoulders.
  • In summer, the spots are light and don’t tan like the normal skin.
  • In winter, as normal skin tone fades, the spots look darker (often pink or brown) than normal Caucasian skin.
  • The spots are covered by a fine scale.
  • Itching
  • The spots vary in size.


Several oral medications have been used successfully to treat tinea versicolor. Because of possible side effects, or interactions with other medications, the use of these prescription medicines should be supervised by your dermatologist. After any form of treatment, the uneven color of the skin may remain several months after the yeast has been eliminated until the skin repigments normally.

Treatment of tinea versicolor most commonly involves application of a 2.5 percent selenium sulfide solution, usually used for one to two weeks. Ketoconazole cream (2 percent) has also been extensively studied as a treatment for this condition, with a cure rate of 84 percent in treated patients, compared with 10 percent in patients receiving placebo.

Your child’s physician may also recommend using the shampoo monthly to help prevent recurrences. The treatment will not bring the normal color back to the skin immediately. This will occur naturally and may take several months.

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