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Tinea Versicolor Treatment St. Louis

White scaly plaques on back of man with tinea versicolor.

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin infection that causes discolored patches on the skin. Affecting people of all ages, it is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia on the skin's surface. This fungal infection, also known as pityriasis versicolor, is often mistaken for other skin conditions like seborrheic dermatitis or eczema. The Malassezia yeast is normally present on skin but can rapidly multiply under certain conditions, leading to patchy discoloration.

At Mid-County Dermatology, our board-certified dermatologists in St. Louis frequently treat tinea versicolor, especially during the summer months. Continue reading to learn more about this condition, and schedule an appointment with our dermatology team if you suspect you have tinea versicolor or a similar rash.

What is Tinea Versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection caused by yeast on the skin. This condition results in uneven skin pigmentation and can be quite bothersome for those who experience it. It's important to note that tinea versicolor is not contagious, but it can be recurrent, meaning it may come back even after treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

1. Yeast Overgrowth: The Root Cause

Tinea versicolor is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast Malassezia furfur on the skin's surface. While this yeast is naturally present on the skin, it can multiply rapidly under certain conditions, leading to the development of the condition. This yeast produces substances that interfere with melanin production in skin cells, resulting in discoloration. Additionally, these substances can trigger an inflammatory response in some individuals, leading to itching and discomfort.

2. Oily Skin

One of the key risk factors for tinea versicolor is having oily skin. The excess oil creates an ideal environment for the yeast to grow and spread.

3. Weakened Immune System

Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or taking immunosuppressive medications, are more susceptible to developing tinea versicolor.

4. Sun Exposure

Several studies have shown a correlation between tinea versicolor and sun exposure, particularly in hot and humid climates. Sun exposure can alter the skin's pigmentation, leading to lighter or darker patches or plaques.

Common Symptoms of Tinea Versicolor

Patches of Uneven Skin Pigmentation

One of the most common symptoms of tinea versicolor in St. Louis patients is the presence of discolored skin patches. These patches can appear lighter or darker than the surrounding skin, giving the affected areas a mottled, patchwork appearance.

Itching and Scaling

In addition to the discolored patches, tinea versicolor may also cause itching or scaling in the affected areas. The itching sensation can range from mild to severe, and scratching may result in small flakes or scales coming off the skin.

More Noticeable After Sun Exposure

The symptoms of tinea versicolor often become more pronounced after sun exposure. This is because the affected areas do not tan like the rest of the skin, making the discolored patches stand out more against the tanned skin.

Macules or Papules

The discolored patches caused by tinea versicolor can take the form of either macules or papules. Macules are flat and distinct discolored spots, while papules are raised and may feel like small bumps when touched. Tinea versicolor tends to occur more frequently on certain areas of the body, including the chest, back, neck, and arms. These areas provide an ideal environment for the yeast that causes the condition to thrive.

Diagnosing Tinea Versicolor in St. Louis

To diagnose tinea versicolor, our dermatologists employ various methods to determine the presence of this fungal infection on the skin. These techniques help identify the characteristic signs and symptoms associated with the condition.

Visual Examination by a Dermatologist

One way to diagnose tinea versicolor is through a visual examination conducted by a dermatologist. During our exams, we carefully inspect the affected area, looking for specific characteristics that indicate the presence of this fungal infection. 

Use of Ultraviolet Light to Detect Fluorescence 

In some cases, we may use a special ultraviolet light called a Wood's lamp during the diagnosis process. This lamp emits ultraviolet (UV) light that can reveal yellowish-green fluorescence to help confirm the diagnosis.

Skin Scraping for Microscopic Analysis

Another method used to diagnose tinea versicolor involves taking a skin scraping from the affected area and analyzing it under a microscope. Our dermatologist will gently scrape off some scales from the skin surface using a blunt edge or scalpel blade. He or she will then prepare a potassium hydroxide wet mount slide with these collected samples.

Microscopic examination allows for closer inspection of the scraped skin cells and fungal elements present in them. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) helps dissolve keratinized cells, making it easier to visualize any fungal hyphae or spores under high magnification using a microscope. The presence of these fungal elements confirms the diagnosis of tinea versicolor.

Treatment for Tinea Versicolor in St. Louis

Tinea versicolor, a common fungal infection of the skin, can be effectively treated using various methods. Here are some treatment options we often consider:

Topical Antifungal Therapy

Topical antifungal medications are often the first line of treatment for tinea versicolor in St. Louis. These come in the form of creams, lotions, or shampoos that are applied directly to the affected areas.

  • Selenium sulfide: Helps control fungal growth and reduce inflammation.

  • Zinc pyrithione: Known for its antifungal and antibacterial properties.

  • Ketoconazole: A broad-spectrum antifungal agent that inhibits fungal cell growth.

Oral Antifungal Medications

In severe cases or when topical treatments are ineffective, oral antifungal medications may be prescribed. These work from within the body to combat the fungal infection.

  • Fluconazole: Taken orally for several weeks to eradicate the fungus.

  • Itraconazole: Taken orally over a period to treat moderate to severe tinea versicolor.


Hygiene and Lifestyle Measures

Maintaining good hygiene and avoiding excessive sweating can help prevent the recurrence of tinea versicolor.

  • Keep affected areas clean and dry.

  • Wear breathable clothing and avoid excessive sweating.

  • Use antifungal soaps or cleansers in your bathing routine.

By following these hygiene practices and minimizing factors that promote fungal growth, you can reduce the chances of tinea versicolor returning.

Tinea Versicolor in St. Louis: Key Takeaways

Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin infection that affects many people in St. Louis. This condition is characterized by discolored patches on the skin, often accompanied by mild itching.

Causes and Triggers

The root cause of tinea versicolor is an overgrowth of yeast on the skin's surface. Several factors can trigger this overgrowth, including:

  • Hot and humid weather

  • Oily skin

  • Hormonal changes

  • Weakened immune system

Symptoms and Affected Areas

The main symptoms of tinea versicolor include:

  • Small, scaly patches that are lighter or darker than the surrounding skin

  • Mild itching in the affected areas

  • Common areas affected: chest, back, neck, and arms

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing tinea versicolor typically involves a visual examination by a dermatologist in St. Louis. Additional tests, such as a Wood's lamp examination or microscopic analysis of skin scrapings, may be used for confirmation.

Treatment options include:

  • Topical antifungal creams, lotions, or shampoos

  • Oral antifungal medications for severe cases or when topical treatments are ineffective

Prevention and Management

To effectively manage tinea versicolor and prevent recurrences, it's essential to:

  • Maintain good hygiene practices, including regular bathing with antifungal soaps

  • Keep affected areas clean and dry

  • Avoid excessive sun exposure and wear breathable clothing

  • Consult our dermatology team for proper evaluation and guidance

If you suspect you have tinea versicolor or have persistent symptoms despite treatment, schedule your visit now for appropriate care and management of this common skin condition.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can tinea versicolor be contagious?

Tinea versicolor is not considered highly contagious as it is caused by naturally occurring yeast on the skin. However, in rare cases where there is direct contact with an individual who has an active infection or sharing personal items like towels or clothing with them could potentially lead to transmission.

How long does it take for tinea versicolor to clear up with treatment?

The duration of treatment for tinea versicolor can vary depending on the severity of the infection and the chosen treatment method. In general, it may take several weeks or even months for the skin discoloration to completely fade after starting treatment.

Can tinea versicolor come back after treatment?

Yes, tinea versicolor can recur even after successful treatment. It is a chronic condition that requires ongoing management to prevent future outbreaks. Following good hygiene practices, using antifungal products regularly, and taking preventive measures during warm and humid weather can help reduce the risk of recurrence.

Are there any natural remedies for treating tinea versicolor?

While some natural remedies like tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar are often suggested as potential treatments for tinea versicolor, their effectiveness has not been scientifically proven. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional before trying any alternative treatments.

Can tinea versicolor affect people of all ages?

Tinea versicolor can affect individuals of all ages but is more commonly seen in teenagers and young adults. Hormonal changes during puberty and young adulthood may contribute to an increased susceptibility to this fungal infection.

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