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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Tinea Versicolor - Topic Overview


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.

Products that you put on your skin (topical treatments) are the most common treatment for tinea versicolor.

  • These may include antifungal shampoos, creams, and foams. Shampoos can be used on the body as well as the head and may be easier to use than creams or foams.
  • Depending on how strong the medicine is, you may or may not need a prescription for these products. For example, shampoos used to treat tinea versicolor usually contain selenium sulfide. They are available in 2.5% strength with a prescription and in 1% strength without a prescription (for example, Selsun Blue, Head and Shoulders).
  • You may need to use the product once or twice each day for 1 to 2 weeks or longer.

If the infection is severe, returns often, or does not get better with skin care, your doctor may prescribe antifungal pills. Pills tend to be easier for people to use than the products that you put on your skin. They may also work better at curing the rash. But they have side effects and can affect your heart and liver, so you may need blood tests while you're taking them. People with liver problems, heart problems, or other health problems may not be able to take the pills.

Treatment kills the fungi quickly. But it can take months for the spots to disappear and for your skin color to return to normal. Also, the infection tends to come back after treatment. It may come and go over the years. In general, it tends to get better as you get older.

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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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