Tinea Versicolor- Fungus Which Causes Salmon Colored Skin Patches

Tinea versicolor is also sometimes referred to as pityriasis versicolor. It is a common fungal infection of the skin. Unlike other fungi, tinea versicolor has the ability to somehow interfere with the skin pigmented cells and cause large discolored patches on the chest or back. Even though the discoloration may appear alarming, the condition is very easily treated.  However, despite successful treatment, tinea versicolor may return especially when one is exposed to warm humid weather.

Tinea versicolor is some how acquired from the environment. Why some people get it and others do not is not known. Once the fungus is acquired it lays dormant until the individual is exposed to warm moist environments.

The typically symptoms of Tinea Versicolor include:

–         Appearance of small scaly patches of discolored skin on the back or chest

–         The patches slowly start to grow in an irregular manner

–         The patches often become more noticeable after sun exposure

–         A few individuals complain of an itch

The majority of individuals who acquire Tinea versicolor develop a large pink salmon colored patch, but the color can very from white to dark brown.Tinea versicolor affects all races and both genders. The infection is typically most common on the back, neck, chest and upper arms. For some unknown reason, the fungus is usually seen in the adult population, and rare in children.

How tinea versicolor is actually derived remains a mystery- some researchers believe that the fungus is already present on the skin and is activated in certain environments. The triggers which can activate the fungus include the following:

–         Warm humid weather. Tinea versicolor often becomes visible while on vacation to a tropical country where the weather is hot and humid.

–         Individuals who are prone to excessive sweating have been known to activate the fungus

–         Individuals who have very oily skin often acquire the fungus.

–         Some females generally get tinea versicolor during certain days of their menstrual cycle.

–         Individuals who are immunosuppressed often are prone to fungus infections.

The diagnosis of tinea versicolor is generally straight forward. Most dermatologists can make a diagnosis of Tinea Versicolor based on the presentation and clinical exam. In only very rare cases are skin scrapings analyzed under a microscope. There is no need for any other studies.
The Treatment & Prevention of Tinea Versicolor

Most individuals can treat Tinea versicolor with over the counter medications. The topical lotions that are available to treat tinea versicolor include:

Selenium sulfide

Ciclopirox gel/ointment

Ketoconazole cream

Selenium sulfide should be the first choice treatment; it is available with out a prescription. Any shampoo containing selenium sulfide can be used for a few weeks. If this fails one can try the other creams and ointments

All the above 3 treatments for tinea versicolor are available in various formulations and need to be applied to the skin twice a day. In most cases, the results are not instantaneous but can take at least a few weeks/months of treatment to see any improvement in the skin.

If the tinea versicolor still persists, one may have to take oral medications. The oral medications require a physician’s prescription and include the following:




The pills have to be taken for least 2-3 weeks. The pills generally work a lot faster than the topical medicines. However, even after the infection has completely disappeared, it can come back. Relapses are more common if there is exposure to warm moist humid environment.

There is no sure way to prevent tinea versicolor. However, if someone has already acquired tinea versicolor, some of the ways to prevent it from coming back again include not wearing tight restrictive clothing which do not aerate well. In addition, one should avoid application of gobs of oil on the body.

Individuals who have had a few recurrence of tinea versicolor may need to use the topical lotions or pills on a continual basis. The selenium lotion can be applied every few weeks or the pills can be taken once a month.