Tinea Versicolor Fungus

A common fungal infection of the skin is tinea versicolor fungus, also called pityriasis versicolor. Tinea versicolor is a type of infection that appears as a paper-thin layer of fungus on your skin. Small discolored patches are the outcome when the fungus interferes with the normal pigmentation of the skin. There are various treatments but even after successful treatment, skin color may remain irregular for several weeks until re-pigmentation takes place. Tinea versicolor may also reappear, especially in high humidity and warm weather. It often recurs after treatment, but normally not right away, so that treatment needs to be repeated only every year or two.  The tinea versicolor fungus is part of the normal adult skin so this condition is not contagious.

Normal healthy skin may have the fungus that produces this disorder growing in its pores which are the opening of the hair follicles. Tinea versicolor fungus occurs when the fungus becomes overgrown. Factors that can cause the fungus to become more noticeable include high humidity and immune or hormone abnormalities, which are triggers like excessive perspiration and oily skin.  Although the discoloration may be more visible on dark skin, anyone regardless of skin color can be affected by the rash.

The term versicolor refers to the fact that it triggers the affected skin to change color and become either lighter or darker than the skin around it. The most common areas it affects are the shoulders, back, and chest.  Sometimes, it can affect creases of skin, such as the crook of the arm, the skin under the breasts, or the groin area. The face is usually not affected, although children can get it there in some cases.

The signs and symptoms of tinea versicolor fungus to look for are small scaly patches of discolored skin, patches that increase slowly, areas that become more noticeable after sun exposure, and possibly mild itching.  The patchy areas can be various colors, including white, pink, tan and dark brown.

Though the fungal infection often returns within one to two years, tinea versicolor fungus does not leave permanent skin discoloration. Some doctors believe the culprit for recurring infection to be fungi that remain in clothing causing the infection to return.  Normal washing and cleaning is usually effective in eliminating fungi from clothes.  Dry-clean clothes or washing them in the hottest possible water may be needed for persistent reoccurring tinea versicolor fungus.