Tinea Versicolor

What is tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin infection characterized by lighter or darker patches on the chest or back. This infection, which prevents the skin from tanning evenly, occurs most often in adolescence and early adulthood.

What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?

Typically the only symptom of tinea versicolor is white or light brown patches. The patches may scale slightly, but they rarely itch or hurt. Other common characteristics of the infection include:

  • White, pink, or brown patches
  • Infection only on the top layers of the skin
  • Rash on the trunk
  • No rash on the face
  • Patches worsen in the heat or humidity
  • Patches worsen if the child is on steroid therapy or has a weakened immune system
  • Patches are most noticeable in the summer

The symptoms of tinea versicolor may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult a physician for diagnosis.

How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?

Tinea versicolor is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of the child. The patches are unique, and usually a diagnosis can be made on physical examination. The physician may also use an ultraviolet light to see the patches more clearly or take skin scrapings of the lesions to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for tinea versicolor?

Treatment usually includes the use of dandruff shampoo on the skin as prescribed by the physician. The shampoo is left on the skin overnight and washed off in the morning, and may be required for several nights.

Tinea versicolor usually recurs, requiring additional treatments, and sometimes improves temporarily. The physician may prescribe topical creams, oral antifungal medications, or monthly shampoo treatments.

This infection can also cause a change in skin color, which can take several months to return to normal.

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Dermatology

The Division of Dermatology at Children's National Health System continues to expand services as more families seek our expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.

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