Tinea versicolor is a fungus infection that mainly affects the skin of young people. This common condition is unsightly, but it is neither permanent nor serious. Spots can be either light- or reddish- brown or else lighter than the surrounding skin (hence, the name "versicolor"). There may be just a few spots, or there can be so many that they run together (like a shawl) and make it seem that islands of normal skin color are the spots, not the other way around. Tinea versicolor is a common
fungal skin infection characterized by lighter or darker patches on the skin. Patches are most often found on the chest or back and prevent the skin from tanning evenly. It occurs mostly in adolescence and early adulthood, but it can occur at any time.
Tinea versicolor causes scaly patches of skin that range in color from white to pink to dark brown. The patches are generally seen on the upper arms, back, shoulders, chest, and neck. The patches may or may not itch. When the person gets overheated, the patches are more likely to itch. The excess yeast on the skin interferes with normal pigmentation. Dark skin may look lighter, and light skin may turn darker. When exposed to sunlight, the patches of tinea versicolor do not tan as well as the surrounding normal skin.
Most people are more distressed by the appearance of their skin than by the itching. The rash occurs on oily areas of skin, commonly on the upper chest and back, and less commonly on the upper thighs, upper arms, or neck. Rashes on the face are rare but may appear in children. The spots of the rash usually appear lighter than the rest of your skin because they don't tan. In untanned individuals, the spots may also appear darker (hyperpigmented) than the surrounding skin, and are often darker in African Americans. The spotted skin may be scaly, especially if it is lightly scratched. During the summer in mild climates, the spots may be very noticeable because they don't tan with the rest of your skin. During the winter, the spots may appear to go away as your tan fades, making the spots less obvious. In tropical climates with high heat and humidity, the appearance of the spots may not change throughout the year. Tinea versicolor usually gets better or disappears as you age and your skin becomes less oily. Tinea versicolor is sometimes confused with other conditions with similar symptoms, such as vitiligo or pityriasis rosea.
Tinea versicolor is cause by a yeast type of skin fungus, which is present on normal skin. If the skin is oily enough, warm enough and moist enough, it starts to grow into small "colonies" on the surface of the skin. In these colonies the yeast grows like crazy and leaks out an acidic bleach. This changes the skin color. The patches are lightly reddish brown on very pale skin but they don't tan. Because of lack of any tanning, they look like white spots on darker or tanned skin. This is most often seen on the neck, upper chest, upper arms and back. There may be a fine, dry scale on it.
Treatment usually includes the use of dandruff shampoo on the skin as prescribed by your child's physician. The shampoo is left on the skin overnight and washed off in the morning. To be effective, the shampoo treatment may be required for several nights. Tinea versicolor usually recurs, requiring additional treatments. Your child's physician may also prescribe topical creams or oral antifungal medications.
It is also important to know that improvement in the skin may only be temporary, and a recurrence of the condition is possible. Your child's physician may also recommend using the shampoo monthly to help prevent recurrences. The treatment will not bring the normal color back to the skin immediately. This will occur naturally and may take several months.