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Tinea Versicolor


What is tinea versicolor and what causes it?

Tinea versicolor is a long-term infection that leaves colored spots on your skin. Tinea versicolor is caused by a fungus. The fungus is always present on your skin. It is harmless unless it grows too quickly.

What increases my risk of tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is not spread from one person to another. The following put you at risk of tinea versicolor:

  • Moisture: You wear tight clothes that do not allow your skin to air out. You sweat heavily when you play sports or are in humid climates. The fungus grows quickly in hot, wet places.
  • Medical conditions: Your skin is burned, you have a weak immune system, or you are pregnant.
  • Medicines: You take certain medicines, such as steroids or birth control pills.

What are the signs and symptoms of tinea versicolor?

You may not have any symptoms until you see spots on your skin. You may have many oval, patchy spots on your chest, back, arms, or face. They may be white, pink, red, or brown. The color will depend on how dark your skin is and how much sunlight you get. The spots may be close together and cover a large area. They may be lighter than the rest of your skin in summer and darker in winter. The spots may itch.

How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?

Your caregiver may be able to tell you have tinea versicolor by the shape and color of the spots. You may also need the following test:

  • Microscopy: Your caregiver may gently scrape off some of your skin with a special tool. He will look at the skin sample through a microscope. This will help him learn if you have tinea versicolor.

How is tinea versicolor treated?

Your skin may clear up after you expose it to sunlight. The changes to your skin color may last for weeks or months after treatment.

  • Antifungal cream: Tinea versicolor is usually treated with an antifungal (kills fungus) cream . You may also need to use a special shampoo on your skin. Apply the cream or shampoo as directed. You may need to use the cream for 4 weeks to treat your symptoms. You may need to apply it for 3 months to keep your symptoms from coming back.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your caregiver if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are taking any vitamins, herbs, or other medicines. Keep a list of the medicines you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits.

What are the risks of tinea versicolor?

You may get tinea versicolor again, even after treatment. You might have to take more than one kind of medicine to treat a severe infection. Without treatment, your infection could become severe.

How can I manage and prevent tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor usually comes back, especially in hot and humid times of the year. You can manage the symptoms and help prevent it.

  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Bathe daily. Your caregiver may tell you to apply a special shampoo to your skin from time to time to keep the infection from coming back. Dry your skin completely after you bathe and play sports. Dry between your toes and anywhere your skin touches or folds.
  • Do not share clothes or towels. Use your own towel if you live with others or go to the gym.
  • Clean showers, baths, and mats with disinfectant (cleaner that kills germs). Clean floors where you might walk barefoot.
  • Wash clothes and towels in hot water.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your signs and symptoms do not get better within 2 weeks of treatment.
  • Your signs and symptoms get worse or come back after treatment.
  • You get a headache that does not go away after you take pain medicine.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.