Tinea versicolor, known as Dermatomycosis furfuracea, Pityriasis versicolor, and Tinea flava, is a benign fungal infection that is characterized by a rash and abnormal patches of pigmentation on the on the chest, arms, legs, and back. This fungus, called malessizia furfur, is a type of yeast that naturally is found on the body.
At times, this fungus can become stimulated and reproduce rapidly, resulting in a rash or series of spots and patches on the skin. Hot and humid conditions can aggravate tinea versicolor, causing it to overproduce. The spots or patches caused by the fungus can be flakey or scaly in appearance, can either lighten or darken skin, and are typically found on the more oils parts of the skin. This chronic, long-term condition can be difficult to prevent from reoccurring in many individuals.
The cause of tinea versicolor is the yeast-like fungus malessizia furfur, and is not contagious. Typically, bathing or showering daily will prevent any fungus from developing onto the skin, but in certain conditions, washing cannot prevent the onset of tinea versicolor.
People who live in tropical areas with high humidity are more likely to contract the condition, as this type of environment allows the fungus to thrive and grow rapidly.Those with an impaired immune system are also more likely to contract the fungus because the body is weakened and cannot fight off the fungal infection.
Certain antibiotics, birth control pills, and corticosteroids may make the body more susceptible to the fungus. As you age you, your skin becomes less oily, making you less likely to suffer from the fungus In the United States, tinea versicolor is most commonly diagnosed in individuals age 15 to 24.
Who is at Risk
While tinea versicolor is most commonly diagnosed in teens and young adults, it can develop in people of all ages, of all races, and gender.
Those who are most susceptible to the fungus live in tropical areas with high humidity; however, the condition also affects individuals in more mild and moderate climates. In many tropical countries, approximately 50% of people are infected with the fungus whereas in countries such as Sweden that have colder climates, approximately 1% of the population is infected.
Children and the Elderly
Though uncommon in children and adults over the age of 65, some cases of tinea versicolor have been diagnosed.The fungus is likely to overproduce in those who are pregnant, malnourished, are prone to oily skin, who sweat excessively, who are using corticosteroids or cortisone, and those who have or are taking medication that weakens the immune system.
Those who suffer from malnutrition, due to high fat diets or starvation, are prone to tinea versicolor. Malnutrition weakens the immune system and can cause an increase in fungus. Many people who have Cushing’s disease, a hormonal disease, are more likely to develop yeast infections.
Unfortunately, some people are genetically predisposed to developing tinea versicolor. Medical studies have been conducted and found that some families suffer from the condition over several generations.
Symptoms of tinea versicolor can vary from person to person.
Typically, the fungus is distinguished by small oval or round spots that range in size from 1 to 3 centimeters. Over time, these spots can fuse together, creating large, discolored patches. The color of these spots and patches range from pale, almost white in color, to dark tan, to pink with red undertones. These spots can have a flakey or scaly appearance in certain individuals.
Some people experience itching, stinging, or a pinprick feeling, which exercise or a hot environment can aggravate. The infection only affects the top layer of the skin. During the winter months, the appearance of tinea versicolor can diminish as the skin is less oily and the environment is less humid.
A doctor will take a skin scraping to gather a sample of the fungus and examine it under a microscope to determine if it is tinea versicolor. Another way to diagnose the fungus is to use a black light. The fungus will glow yellow to yellow-green under the black light.
There are many products available to treat tinea versicolor. Some require a prescription, but many others can be purchased from pharmacies, drug stores, or supermarkets.
Antifungal creams and be purchased over the counter at a pharmacy or prescribed by a doctor. A clinical trial showed that by applying a 2% ketoconazole cream one a day for 2 to 3 weeks, 70% of the people in the study had noticeable improvement. Over the counter antifungal creams such as Lamisil also work to treat and rid the body of tinea versicolor.
Antifungal pills can be prescribed for tinea versicolor, but often have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, and can potentially harm the liver. Prescriptions such as Itraconazole or Fluconazole often work faster than topical creams, but the fungus often comes back. Take antifungal pills as directed for 2 to 3 for best results.
Dandruff shampoos are often the first choice in treating tinea versicolor because they are inexpensive and easy to find. These shampoos are often less effective than creams and prescription medications and can cause skin sensitivity. Many individuals use Selsun Blue dandruff, which is sold at drug stores and many supermarkets, to treat tinea versicolor.
Selsun Blue and many other brands of dandruff shampoos contain the antifungal ingredient selenium sulfide. Coat the skin with a thin layer of dandruff shampoo once a day for 10 to 14 days. Allow to dry, then rinse off with water or simply take a shower. The dried shampoo may be difficult to remove; using a washcloth will help to remove the shampoo easily and effectively. Often there is a reoccurrence of tinea versicolor after using dandruff shampoos, so always pay attention to your body and check if any spots or patches have developed.
Other types of dandruff shampoos contain pyrithione zinc, which can also treat the effects of the fungus. Use the shampoo as a lotion, allow to dry, then rinse it off or take a shower to remove the shampoo. Mane’n’Tail and Head & Shoulders are two popular pyrithione zinc shampoos that can be found at most supermarkets and drug stores.
Many of the creams, pills, and shampoos contain harmful chemicals and cause unpleasant side effects. There many home remedies that are natural and equally as effective as chemical treatments.
The fungus that causes tinea versicolor is yeast-related. Applying yogurt to the patches on the skin helps to neutralize the yeast. Unflavored, natural fresh yogurt is recommended for applying to the patches. You can also eat yogurt to help fight the yeast internally. While this treatment may take a long amount of time, it is a permanent way of treating the fungus.
Using vinegar that contains garlic and oregano is another useful treatment of the fungus. All 3 of these ingredients have powerful antifungal properties. Simply dip a cotton ball or washcloth in the vinegar and gently rub it on the affected areas of the skin. This process must be done daily and may take several months but has been shown to return the skin pigment to normal in many individuals.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil naturally dries up excess oil on the skin and has antifungal properties. Apply the tea tree oil to the spots or patches using a cotton ball or washcloth. Be sure to dap the tea tree oil around the outside of the skin surrounding the spots. Cut a piece of gauze and tape it to the spot with medical tape.
Allow the tea tree oil to soak into the skin for at least 1 hour before removing the gauze. Tea tree oil can stain clothing so be sure to remove the oil using a cotton ball dipped in alcohol or by taking a shower.
Once of the most popular natural remedies is making a paste using turmeric powder, clarified butter, and sandalwood powder. Apply the paste to the spots for at least half an hour. Use on a daily basis until the spots no longer appear.
Showering daily and using a washcloth or sponge to exfoliate the areas will help to remove the flakey, dead cells and reduce the amount of fungus on the skin. Be sure to wash your clothes, towels, and washcloths in hot water to get rid of any fungi that have become attached to the material.
Proper nutrition can stimulate the immune system and help to rid the body of the fungus. Drinking plenty of water daily can also flush the system of toxins that can damage the immune system.
A diet high in vitamins C, E, B complex, and A help to give your immune system a healthy boost. These can be found in citrus fruits, whole wheat, and many raw fruits and vegetables. Reduce the amount of carbohydrates in your diet as carbohydrates can help to stimulate yeast production. Instead, try eating foods with probiotics such as yogurt, sweet potatoes, fresh garlic, coconut, and raw pumpkin seeds.
Drinking clove tea, kifer, or water mixed with a little lemon juice and apple cider vinegar all help to rid the body of excess yeast.
Acidophilus is in supplement form contains live beneficial bacteria that help maintain a natural balance of yeast within the body. Lactobacillus acidophilus, or L-acidophilus is recommended to take to stabilize yeast levels and help to reduce the presence of tinea versicolor. These supplements can be found at supermarkets, pharmacies, and drug stores.
Selenium is a trace mineral foods, water, and soil. It is a common ingredient in dandruff shampoos, which have shown to be effective in treating tinea versicolor. Taking a selenium supplement daily can help to regulate the body and fight the fungus.
Tinea versicolor that is pale in color clears more easily than other colors of the fungus. Over time, the area will be able to tan normally. There are some white markings, however, that will remain permanent. There is no scientific evidence explaining the cause of this phenomenon. Spots that are pink or brown in color are more likely to reoccur. Antifungal treatments should be repeated to decrease reoccurrence.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent reoccurrences of tinea versicolor. Keeping your body clean, oil free, and dry can reduce the ability of the fungus to multiply. Try to keep out of the heat or environments that can cause sweating. Wearing clothing that has a thin weave and keeps you cool is also a good way to reduce sweating. If you have a history of tinea versicolor, try to avoid tanning.
Tanning can make the spots more noticeable and could further exacerbate the condition. Washing with an antibacterial or antifungal soap on a regular basis can keep the yeast in balance. Avoid oily lotions or body washes as they can worsen the appearance and create an ideal environment for the fungus to grow.