Pityriasis Versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor, or tinea versicolor, is a harmless disease characterized by changes in the normal pigmentation of the skin, which appear like patches of discolored skin. This common skin condition often affects adolescents and young adults, and is caused by a fungus calledPityrosporum orbiculare. Although this type of yeast is often found on normal skin, an overgrowth of the microbe causes pityriasis skin infection. Some people need regular treatment to prevent a recurrent infection.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Pityriasis Versicolor?

The first symptom of pityriasis versicolor is the appearance of spots on your skin. These spots, which may appear anywhere on the body, may be lighter or darker than your surrounding skin. They may be colored white, salmon, pink, red, brown or tan.

Other signs and symptoms of pityriasis are:

  • Dry and scaly spots and patches
  • Itchy skin where spots appear
  • Skin tanning makes the spots more noticeable because the yeast prevents the spots from tanning
  • Slow growing spots
  • Spots sometimes disappear in cold temperature and return in warm, humid weather
  • Faint or light colored spots that are often mistaken for vitiligo (a skin condition that causes the loss of skin color)

When to See a Doctor

Pityriasis versicolor is not a serious condition. It is not contagious, so it is not possible for you to catch the condition from someone else. However, it is advisable to see a doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not improve with simple home remedies
  • The infection returns
  • Large areas of your body are covered by pityriasis patches

What Are the Causes of Pityriasis Versicolor?

Pityriasis versicolor is caused by infection with Malassezia or Pityrosporum yeast, which is normally found on the skin of most adults, where it usually quietly lives. However, skin infection develops when the yeast multiplies uncontrollably, causing an infection on the skin. It is not clear why this occurs in some people, but there are some factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease:

  • Staying or living in warm, moist environments
  • Hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating
  • Excessive oil production in the skin
  • Age – it is more common among teens and young adults

Contrary to popular belief, pityriasis versicolor is not contagious or caused by poor hygiene.

How Is Pityriasis Versicolor Diagnosed?

Pityriasis versicolor is often diagnosed by clinical examination by a skin specialist or dermatologist. Confirmation of diagnosis may be made by laboratory examination, which may be done by:

  • Obtaining a skin scraping and looking for the microbe under the microscope.
  • Looking at the skin using a Wood's lamp, a special device used by dermatologists. Affected skin areas appear yellowish green under this lamp.

What Are the Treatments for Pityriasis Versicolor?

The treatment of pityriasis versicolor includes the use of antifungal medicines, which are available as creams, shampoos, and pills.

Antifungal Shampoos

Shampoos containing ketoconazole and selenium sulphide are considered the first line of treatment for pityriasis. You can buy these products over the counter in pharmacies, but your doctor may also prescribe them.

These shampoos are not only used for the hair, but they may be applied to affected skin areas. They are often left on the skin for 5 to 10 minutes before being washed off. Repeat applications may be done every day for up to 7 days.

If you experience some irritation or burning sensation on the skin when treating it with these shampoos, especially with selenium sulphide, dilute your shampoo with a little water before application. Some people may find the odor of selenium sulphide unpleasant.

Antifungal Creams

Antifungal creams may be used for treating small areas of skin. Apply the cream on the affected area of skin once or twice daily for several weeks. A burning sensation may be experienced when using antifungal creams, although this is not common.

Antifungal Tablets

Antifungal tablets may be prescribed when other forms of treatment are ineffective or if large areas of skin are affected. These tablets are usually taken once a day for up to four weeks. Some people experience side effects such as rashes, abdominal pain, and feeling sick while taking antifungal tablets, but these are not common.

Self-Care Measures

Some tips to help you manage pityriasis versicolor include:

  • Avoid applying oily skin products.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to sunlight, which can trigger or worsen your condition. Tanning also makes your rash more visible.
  • If you are going out in the sun, use an anti-fungal shampoo a couple of days prior to exposure.
  • Use a non-greasy sunscreen formula with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing.
  • Wear fabrics that prevent excessive sweating, such as cotton.
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