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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Tinea Versicolor - Topic Overview

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 skincamera.gif. 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 person.

Other things that increase your chance of getting tinea versicolor include:

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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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