What is tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor (say "TIH-nee-uh VER-sih-kuh-ler") is a fungal
infection that causes many small, flat spots on the skin. The spots can be
flaky or mildly itchy. The many small spots may blend into large patchy areas,
usually on the oily parts of the upper body like the chest and back. The spots
can be either lighter or darker than the skin around them.
What causes tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor is caused by a
fungus. This fungus lives all around us, including on
the skin. Normally, regular washing and showering removes dead skin and fungi
(more than one fungus). But in hot and humid weather, such as during the summer
or in tropical areas, fungi may grow more rapidly. As these fungi grow in
number, their natural balance on the skin is affected, the normal color of the
skin changes, and spots appear.
People with oily skin, especially teens and young adults, are
more likely to get tinea versicolor. It does not spread from person to
Other things that increase your chance of getting tinea
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of tinea versicolor include small, flat, round or oval
spots that may, over time, form patches. The spots occur on oily areas of skin
on the upper chest, back, or upper arms or, less often, on the upper thighs,
neck, or face.
The spots can be lighter or darker than the skin around them.
If your skin tends to get darker with sun exposure, the spots may be easier to see in the summer because
they don't tan with the rest of your skin. For people whose skin is lighter during the winter, the spots may
be harder to see at that time of year.
The spots are flat and may be white, pink, red, tan, or brown,
depending on your skin color. Each person's spots are usually just one color.
The spotted skin may be scaly. Although it’s not common, your skin may itch, especially when you are hot.
How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?
Your doctor often can tell if you have tinea versicolor by
looking at the spots.
He or she may look at a sample (scraping) of the infected
skin under a microscope. The test used most often for this is the
KOH test. This can show whether the problem is caused by a fungus.
How is it treated?
Treatment can prevent the rash from spreading and
improve the appearance of your skin. The condition is easy to treat. But not everyone chooses to get
treatment. You only need to treat the infection if it bothers you or causes problems.