Pityriasis versicolor is a common infection of the skin. It is causes small, scaly patches with different colors. It is usually easy to treat.
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Pityriasis versicolor is caused by a fungus. The fungus is normally found in small amounts on the skin and scalp. A change in environment can lead to an overgrowth of the fungus. This leads to symptoms.
This condition is more common in teens and young adults. Other things that raise the risk are:
- Physical activity
- Very sweaty skin
- Using oils on the skin
- Warm, humid weather
- A weak immune system
Pityriasis versicolor often affects large areas of the skin. Symptoms may include:
- Thin, small, patches that may be:
- Pale yellow, dark brown, or yellowish brown
- Shades of red, pink, or orange
- Light or dark
- Light scaling on affected areas
- Little to no itching
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. A special light may be used to examine the skin. The doctor may suspect pityriasis versicolor based on the exam.
A skin doctor may scrape and test a sample of the skin. This can confirm the diagnosis.
The goal is to clear the infection. Pityriasis versicolor may be treated with:
- Antifungal lotions, creams, or shampoos—applied to the skin
- Antifungal pills taken by mouth—used for widespread infections
Skin may return to its normal color. It may take several months to a few years after treatment. The condition may also improve in the winter and return in the summer.
Treatment may be used to keep the infection from coming back.
American Academy of Dermatology
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
The College of Family Physician of Canada
Hudson A, Sturgeon A, et al. JAMA. 2018;320(13):1396.
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Tinea versicolor. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: https://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/t/tinea-versicolor. Accessed August 4, 2021.
Tinea versicolor. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tinea-versicolor. Accessed August 4, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 8/4/2021