Tinea Versicolor is a skin infection that is caused by a fungus that lives on your skin.
This fungus can be found on everyone’s skin, even those that are perfectly healthy. It however becomes a problem when the fungus begins to grow in excess.
Tinea Versicolor causes skin discolouration, creating different colour patches on your skin.
This skin infection is also called Pityeriasis Versicolor. The word versicolor is included in the name because of the numerous skin colours that might occur because of the infection.
What causes Tinea Versicolor?
It is caused by the excessive growth of a fungus called Malassezia.
There are different species of Malassezia but the specie which causes this infection the most, is called M. Globosa.
The fungus causes a disturbance in your normal skin pigmentation. This makes scaly and totally discoloured patches to appear on your skin.
What the fungus does is that it secretes an acid that prevents your body from producing melanin, which is responsible for skin colour. The areas affected by this become discoloured patches.
There are several factors that can trigger the activities of the fungus. You are at the risk of getting this infection:
- If you stay in a climate region that is hot or humid
- If you sweat excessively
- If you are pregnant
- If you have an oily skin type
- If your immune system is compromised
- If you are using birth control pills
- If you are experiencing hormonal fluctuations.
What are the symptoms of Tinea Versicolor?
The primary and most prominent of symptoms is the patches that appear on your skin. They are usually lighter than your normal skin color. These patches do not get darker even when you expose your skin directly to the heat of the sun. Instead, they become more visible.
There are people that have darker patches instead of lighter patches.
When this infection appears on a dark skin, it can lead to hypopigmentation, that is, loss of skin colour.
Though this infection could take form in any part of your body, the most affected areas are usually your trunk and your shoulders, and sometimes, your face, abdomen or neck can get affected.
However, the spots or patches can appear and disappear based on weather changes.
During cold seasons like harmattan or rainy seasons, it might not be very visible or might disappear totally. While in hot seasons like dry season, it becomes very visible.
You might also experience itching, scales forming on your skin and profuse sweating.
How can Tinea Versicolor be diagnosed?
If you notice colored patches on your skin, go see a doctor. After examinations, your doctor would tell you whether or not it is Tinea Versicolor.
Your doctor might have to conduct a skin scraping if it the patches are hard to diagnose. Skin scraping is the process of gently scraping your skin to remove skin cells for testing.
These cells are then observed with a microscope to determine if they have the yeast that causes this infection.
Your doctor can also test a tissue from the skin patch for fungi in the topmost skin layer. A wood lamp can also be used for diagnosis. A wood lamp has ultra violet rays that make the affected skin area turn green or yellow.
Usually, the machine is placed about 5 inches away from your skin.
How can Tinea Versicolor be treated?
If the symptoms of the infection are not severe, you can choose to treat it at home. You can get over-the-counter lotions, creams or gels that will treat the symptoms and prevent a flare-up.
According to Medical News Today, you can get:
- Miconazole cream
- Clotrimazole lotion or cream
- Terbinafine gel or cream
- Zinc Pyrithione soap
Just go to a major pharmacy in your area to ask if they have any of the above products.
There are also different medical treatments options for this infection. Your doctor has to consider factors like the affected area and what part of the body it is located in, climatic conditions, etc. before prescribing treatment options.
Your doctor might prescribe:
- Lotions or creams that contain Ketoconazole, pyrithione zinc or selenium sulfide
- Medicated body washes or shampoos to use when a flare-up occurs especially during hot and humid seasons
- Antifungal medications especially when large areas of your skin are affected.
Whatever prescription you get, it is very essential that you obey all instructions given on how to use the medications. You also should be consistent in the usage of the drugs to avoid a recurrence of the infection.
Take note that it might take months before your skin changes back to normal, even when the medications are working. So, be patient.
It is also easy for the infection to return, especially when the weather becomes hot and humid. Your doctor should prescribe medications monthly to suppress symptoms in such weather.
How to prevent Tinea Versicolor?
Whether you’ve never had it before, or you’ve successfully treated this infection, there are different measures to take to prevent Tinea Versicolor or to avoid being infected again. They include:
- Avoid sweating excessively. Make extra efforts to stay dry, no matter how hot the weather is
- Stay away from anything that causes excessive heat
- Your doctor should prescribe anti-fungal lotions to use in hot weather conditions
- Do not expose your skin to ultra-violet rays from the sun
- Practice good hygiene. Take good care of your skin. Wash off dirt and excess oil from your skin daily
It is very easy for this infection to recur, so it is very important that you take these preventive measures very seriously. The good news is that, it is not painful, neither is it contagious. And with proper medications, it can be treated.
If you have Tinea Versicolor, then your greatest enemy is heat. Whether it is from a machine, the sun or even tanning beds, heat only worsens the infection.
Immediately you notice symptoms, especially if you are not sure it is Tinea Versicolor, please, see a doctor. Constantly take your medications in line with the instructions given by your doctor.
And when you get the infection cured, make sure you take preventive measures to ensure that it does not return.
If you can do all these, patiently, Tinea Versicolor would remain far from you, and your skin will be just fine.