How To Treat Tinea Versicolor? Signs, Symptoms, Treatment And Diagnosis

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Tinea versicolor, also known as pityriasis versicolor, is a skin infection that is caused by a fungus.  Yeast naturally lives and grows on the skin.  But, when the growth of the yeast is not controlled, the skin disease of tinea versicolor is the result and the appearance is that of a rash.

There are a number of reasons that an infection can occur:

  • Skin is too oily
  • Weather condition is hot
  • Sweating is profuse
  • Immune system is weak

Tinea versicolor is not a contagious condition because yeast is part of the natural flora growing on your skin.  It does not matter what color of skin a person has.  Anyone can be affected by this condition but most likely it affects those in young adulthood and adolescence.

Tinea Versicolor – Signs and Symptoms

As the yeast grows out of control, it causes the skin to be different in color in patches or spots.

  • Patches of the growing yeast may have the appearance of the following colors:  brown, red, white or pink.
  • Most often people do not realize they have tinea versicolor until they notice patches of skin that do not tan at the same rate as the surrounding skin.
  • While the spots can occur on any part of the body, the more common places for occurrence is on the trunk, back, neck and arms.  It can occur on the face, particularly the forehead, but this is more common among children.
  • Other signs and symptoms of tinea versicolor are:
  • Worsening condition in heat and humidity and relief when cool and dry.
  • Patches and spots can be dry and scale when scraped.
  • Itchiness and pain are not likely but can occur.


A medical doctor can give a diagnosis of tinea versicolor based on the appearance of the rash.  An ultraviolet light may be used that would cause the tinea versicolor to have a fluorescent yellow-green appearance.

The doctor may scrape the skin and place the scales and skin sample under a microscope.  A clear tape may be used, especially with children, by firmly placing the tape on the skin to lift the skin cells off upon removal of the tape.  The tape is then placed under the microscope for viewing.

Treatment – Tinea Versicolor

There are several ways to treat tinea versicolor depending on the infected area’s thickness, location and size.  Treatment consists of topical products and may include medication in pill form.

  • Anti-fungal topicaltreatments can be shampoos, soaps, creams or lotion placed directly on the affected skin to attempt to control the growth of the yeast.  Anti-fungal topical treatments can be purchased over-the-counter.  The ingredients included in these topical products may include clotrimazole, miconazole, selenium sulfide and terbinafine.  There are also prescription anti-fungal topical treatments available as well.
  • Anit-fungal pillsare used for treatment of recurring and problematic tinea versicolor cases.  They may also be used for a faster and easier treatment for the infection.  Anti-fungal pills are only given as a prescription.  Your doctor will monitor you for side effects if you are prescribed anti-fungal medication in pill form.

It is important to note that while treatment typically gets rid of the fungus, the skin may be discolored for at least several months.

Management Considerations

The fungal infection that is caused by overgrowth of yeast may recur since yeast is part of the natural flora of the skin.  To help prevent recurring episodes of tinea versicolor, medicated shampoos and soaps may need to be used several times a month.  This is especially true for those who live in hot and humid weather conditions.

To control tinea versicolor, you may need to do some of the following:

  • Do not use products on your skin that are oily.
  • Limit your time in sunlight.  Sun exposure tends to increase the growth of the yeast and may aggravate a fungal infection.  Also, the rash is more visible if your skin is tan.
  • When you have no choice but to be exposed to sunlight, eliminate the chance for recurrence by using anti-fungal cleansing treatments for several days prior to exposure to the sun.
  • Use a non-greasy sunscreen daily with at least an SPF factor of 30.
  • Wear loose fitting and comfortable clothing.
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