Pityriasis Versicolor

Overview

Definition

Pityriasis versicolor is a common infection of the skin. It is causes small, scaly patches with different colors.

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Causes

Pityriasis versicolor is caused by a fungus. It affects skin color. The fungus is normally found in small numbers on the skin and scalp. A change in environment can lead to an overgrowth of the fungus. This leads to symptoms.

Risk Factors

Pityriasis versicolor is more common in teens and young adults. Other factors that may increase your chance of pityriasis versicolor include:

  • Having naturally oily or excessively sweaty skin
  • Living in warm and humid climates
  • Having a weakened immune system

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Pityriasis versicolor may cause:

  • Uneven skin color, with either white or light brown patches—most often on back, chest, or neck
  • Light scaling on affected areas
  • Slight itching, which is worse when the person is hot

Patches are easier to notice in the summer.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. A special light may be used to examine the skin. Pityriasis versicolor can be diagnosed by sight.

You may need to be referred to a specialist. A sample of the patch may be scraped off. It will be sent to a lab for testing.

Treatments

Treatment

Pityriasis versicolor is treated with antifungal medication. This may be:

  • Over-the-counter or prescription antifungal:
    • Lotions or creams—used for 2 weeks
    • Shampoos—left on for 5-10 minutes and rinsed off
  • Prescription oral antifungal pills such as

Your skin may return to its normal color after the infection has cleared. It may take several months to a few years. The condition may also improve in the winter only to return in the summer.

Prevention

If you know you are prone to pityriasis versicolor, talk to your doctor. A treatment may be used to keep it from returning.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

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RESOURCES

American Academy of Dermatology http://www.aad.org 

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases http://www.niams.nih.gov 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Dermatology http://www.dermatologists.ca 

The College of Family Physician of Canada http://www.cfpc.ca 

References

Tinea versicolor. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed December 13, 2017.

Tinea versicolor. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed December 13, 2017.

Tinea versicolor. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114485/Tinea-versicolor  . Updated May 20, 2016. Accessed December 13, 2017.