Tinea Versicolor

Overview of Tinea Versicolor

Tinea Versicolor occurs due to the overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia. This skin condition is not contagious and is easily treatable.

Various microorganisms live on our skin. They usually protect the skin from foreign entities and infections. Yeast Malassezia is a fungus that lives on our skin and maintains a symbiotic relationship with the skin cells.
Tinea versicolor (Phulbehri/ پھلبہری) is a yeast infection of the skin that happens when yeast grows uncontrollably. In this infection, the pigmentation of the skin is disturbed and discolored patches are formed. The color of the patches can change from light to dark. The most affected areas are the shoulders and trunk.
Tinea Versicolor is also called Pityriasis Versicolor.
Tinea versicolor is the most common fungal infection. It is not serious, contagious, or painful nor does it lead to scarring. The skin remains discolored for a while but returns back to normal.

Prevalence of Tinea Versicolor

The highest prevalence of tinea versicolor is found in tropical climates. It affects up to 40 percent of the population in these areas.

In Pakistan, the prevalence rate of tinea versicolor is 4.2 percent. It affects individuals of all age groups.

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Signs and Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

Signs and Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor include:

  • Discoloration patches anywhere on the body
  • Scaling
  • Mild itching
  • The patches can be white, pink, red, tan, or brown
  • Dry skin
  • Patches disappear in a cool climate

Types of Tinea Versicolor

Causes of Tinea Versicolor

Yeast (Malassezia) lives on everyone’s skin. Their overgrowth causes tinea versicolor. The main known causes for this infection are as follows:

  • The hot, humid climate
  • Oily skin
  • Weak immune system
  • Sweating
  • Hormonal Changes

Risk Factors of Tinea Versicolor

The following are various factors that can put an individual at a higher risk for tinea versicolor:

  1. Genetics or a family history of tinea versicolor
  2. Sweating excessively
  3. Humid or warm environments
  4. Medications
  5. Secondary cancers
  6. Weak immune system

Health Complications of Tinea Versicolor

Skin discoloration is the main complication of tinea versicolor. This condition tends to persist for weeks after treatment. This is due to the production of melanocytes which require significant time for recovery.

After stem cell transplant, patients may also suffer from lung disorders.



Some of the best lifestyle choices that can reduce the chance of tinea versicolor are:

  1. Avoid using oily skincare products
  2. Avoid prolonged exposure to UV rays.
  3. Try to use sunscreen
  4. Make sure to use a dandruff shampoo that has selenium sulfide
  5. Do not wear tight clothes
  6. Make use of breathable fabrics such as cotton
  7. Try to use antifungal shampoo for your hair


Usually, a physical examination is enough to diagnose tinea versicolor. To remove any doubt about the diagnosis, the following tests are performed:

  • Scraped Skin

A bit of the infected skin is scraped off and examined under a microscope.

  • Wood’s Lamp

Wood's lamp uses ultraviolet rays. If yeast is present on the skin, the skin appears yellow or green under the light.

Treatment of Tinea Versicolor | When to Consult a Doctor

The prescription for the treatment of tinea versicolor depends on many factors including the:

  • Area affected
  • Tenure of the condition
  • The thickness of the spots grown
  • Climate

Treatment for tinea versicolor is as follows:

  1. Topical Medication

Antifungal creams and shampoos are used for mild to moderate infections. They can easily clear out the infection by killing the yeast. Some of the medications used are:

  • Selenium sulfide
  • Ketoconazole
  • Pyrithione zinc
  • Terbinafine
  • Miconazole
  • Clotrimazole
  1. Oral Medication

If the infection is persistent and covers a large area of the body, antifungal pills are prescribed. They are taken for a very short amount of time. some of the prescribed medicine  include:

  • Itraconazole
  • Fluconazole
  1. Medicated Cleansers

A warm and humid environment can cause the infection to return. A medicated cleanser can prevent the yeast infection from returning.

Long–term Outlook

The skin is discolored a bit for weeks or even months. The skin needs to be protected. To even out the skin tone, skin must be protected from the sun and tanning should be avoided for a few months.

There is a chance that tinea versicolor will return after a while. Especially in the tropical climate, the chance of a yeast infection is high due to the warm and humid air.


Tinea versicolor is not a serious condition. It is perfectly treatable. Treatment will improve the long-term outlook of the condition. It is best to consult your dermatologist if the infection reappears.