What is tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a superficial fungal infection of the skin. It is caused by overgrowth of a yeast that is normally present on the skin. It can cause skin discoloration and, sometimes, mild itching. The infection is also known as pityriasis versicolor.

For many people, doctors treat the condition successfully with topical or oral antifungal medications. With treatment, most people recover fully from this infection.

Who is most at risk for getting tinea versicolor?

Tinea versicolor affects many people worldwide. People living in tropical or subtropical regions are most at risk. It is common during summer months in temperate climates and around puberty when the oil glands of the skin are more active.

You may be at higher risk if your immune system does not function properly. This may occur if you take medications like corticosteroids, have had an organ transplant, or have medical conditions like diabetes. Pregnant women are more susceptible to tinea versicolor.

Is tinea versicolor contagious?

Tinea versicolor is not contagious.

What causes tinea versicolor?

An overgrowth of yeast on the skin surface causes tinea versicolor. If your skin is warm, moist, and oily enough, naturally occurring yeast may grow in small colonies. These yeast colonies cause the symptoms of tinea versicolor.

What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?

For most people, tinea versicolor causes mild symptoms. These may include:

  • Skin discoloration, usually on the face, neck, chest and abdomen. Discolored patches can appear anywhere on your body.
  • Itching at or around areas of skin affected by tinea versicolor
  • Excessive sweating
  • Patches of skin that:
    • Have sharply defined edges
    • Are lighter or darker than normal skin and can be pink, yellow-brown or tan
    • May dry out and form scales
    • May not darken in the sun

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/21/2018.


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