Tinea versicolor (also known as pityriasis versicolor) is a fungal infection that causes a skin rash. The rash is formed by many small spots that typically appear on the oily parts of the upper body, usually on the chest and back.
The spots are flat and may be white, pink, red, tan, or brown, depending on skin color. Each person's spots are usually the same color, either lighter or darker than the rest of the skin. The spots may eventually form patches, and the spotted skin may be scaly.
Tinea versicolor is caused by the yeast Pityrosporum orbiculare, which is a type of fungus. The yeast is normally found on the skin. But when temperatures and humidity are high, such as during the summer or in tropical regions, the fungi may grow rapidly, resulting in a skin rash.
Tinea versicolor is most common in teenagers and young adults because their skin tends to be more oily, but it can occur at any age. It is not considered to be contagious.
Tinea versicolor is treated with topical medicines that are spread on the skin or scalp, such as creams, shampoos, or solutions. Topical medicines are an effective treatment for the rash. But if the rash is severe or returns often, antifungal pills may be needed. Tinea versicolor is easily treated but often returns within 1 to 2 years.
Last Revised: November 3, 2011
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Amy McMichael, MD - Dermatology
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