Tinea Versicolor

During the summer months, the incidence of tinea versicolor increases.  Tinea versicolor (TV) is a very mild fungal skin infection caused by the yeast Malassezia furfur that mainly occurs in the truncal areas although if widespread may spread onto the shoulder/arm areas and thighs.  The rash typically looks like multiple, small round, very slightly elevated either brown, pink or white areas with some mild scale.  Fungus, in general, tends to multiply and causes infections where it is warm and moist.  TV is more common during the summer months because the temperature is warmer and our bodies produce more sweat.  Although Malassezia furfur is a common yeast that lives on nearly everyone's skin, it is unknown why some people are more prone to TV than others.  With treatment, although the yeast is cleared and TV is cured, people who get TV tend to get it multiple times especially during the summer months.

Treatment is usually fairly simple.  Mostly commonly, a topical anti-fungal cream, such as ketoconazole cream, will be used twice a day for 2-4 weeks.  Sometimes an anti-fungal or an anti-dandruff shampoo will be recommended.  Although helpful, I prefer using the creams rather than the shampoos as the shampoo can easily dry out the skin and cause other problems such as eczema.  Occassionally, topicals will not be enough to completely cure the infection.  In these cases, an oral anti-fungal pill may be used.  I usually prefer 1 to 2 weeks of daily Lamisil.  

The best way to prevent TV is to keep your body as cool and dry as possible.  After showers or baths, make sure to dry your body completely.  If TV is very recurrent, consider dusting with anti-fungal powder daily.  

The discoloration caused by TV usually resolves with time although it can take weeks or even months.  Be sure to wear daily sunscreen as the discolored areas can become more accentuated with the sun.  

Dana Kang, MD Dr. Kang is a board-certified dermatologist.

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