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Are Your Pale Patches of Skin Tinea Versicolor?

Scaly Skin — New Bern, NC — East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC

If you’ve noticed patches of pale and scaly skin, then you could have a common condition called tinea versicolor. Generally, this skin condition doesn’t cause serious problems, but it can be annoying and need treatment if you have a large infection. Its appearance is similar to other skin conditions, so you should have a dermatologist check it out. Here is more information about tinea versicolor, its symptoms, and effective treatments.

What Is Tinea Versicolor?

Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection on your skin. Fungus naturally lives on your skin all the time. Most of the time, it doesn’t cause any problems. However, under certain conditions, it can grow out of control.

The overgrown fungus usually leaves white or red scaly patches that cause mild itching. The patches have well-defined edges and don’t tan in the sun. Often, the patches start small but can grow in size. The good news is that the infection doesn’t spread from person to person.

Tinea versicolor is found all over the world. This fungus infection is most common in people with the following issues:

  • Genetics
  • Immune system issues
  • Excessive sweating
  • Oily skin issues
  • Corticosteroid use

Infections are more likely to happen when the weather is hot and humid.

How Is Tinea Versicolor Diagnosed?

The doctor diagnoses this condition with a skin scrape. The cells are examined under a microscope to confirm that the fungus is the cause. The doctor may use a UV light known as a wood lamp to detect the fungus and rule out other conditions. The afflicted area appears yellow-green under the lamp.

What Other Diseases Appear Similar to Tinea Versicolor?

Many people mistake tinea versicolor as vitiligo. Both conditions create light patches of skin. If you have a large infection, the two conditions may appear superficially similar. However, vitiligo does not cause rough or uneven patches.

Guttate psoriasis is also another condition that looks similar, especially if your tinea versicolor is a little on the red side. Psoriasis is a long-term skin condition that can cause discomfort if not treated. Most people with psoriasis battle it off and on through their lives.

How Is Tinea Versicolor Treated?

Mild cases are often not a problem and may improve when the causing conditions diminish. You may be able to treat small cases with over-the-counter creams and medications. However, if your condition covers a large part of your body, you will have trouble eliminating it without stronger treatments.

Common prescription treatments include stronger fungal creams and tablet medications. Your doctor may also prescribe or suggest shampoos and soaps with zinc pyrithione to kill the fungus. If you use these soaps and shampoos, be sure to apply them all over your body, even where no fungus exists. When used this way, it helps prevent the fungus from infecting an untreated area. You may need to re-treat if you have a stubborn, chronic infection.

Can One Prevent Tinea Versicolor?

For most people, an increase in hygiene helps reduce the fungus and prevent new infections. Make sure you dry yourself thoroughly after bathing, especially in hot and humid conditions. You may want to use your anti-fungal shampoos and soaps more often during these times. Try not to use products that make your skin oilier. Also, protect your skin from the sun. Sun exposure will darken the surrounding skin and make your condition more prominent.

Tinea versicolor, by itself, is usually not harmful, and you can often self-treat a mild case. However, this condition mimics other skin conditions, so a proper diagnosis is important. If you have strange white patches on your skin or patches of rough, itchy skin, East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC, can help. We can examine and treat your skin and advise you on preventative measures. Contact us for an appointment to get started.

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