KidsMD Health Topics

Tinea Versicolor

  • Overview

    Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin infection characterized by lighter or darker patches on the skin.

    • Patches are most often found on the chest or back and prevent the skin from tanning evenly.
    • It occurs mostly in adolescence and early adulthood, but it can occur at any time.
    • Patches may scale slightly but rarely itch or hurt.
    • Treatment usually includes the use of dandruff shampoo on the skin.
    • Tinea versicolor usually recurs, requiring additional treatments.

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115
     617-355-7701 
     fax: 617-730-0505

  • In-Depth

    What is tinea versicolor?

    Tinea versicolor is a common fungal skin infection characterized by lighter or darker patches on the skin. Patches are most often found on the chest or back and prevent the skin from tanning evenly. It occurs mostly in adolescence and early adulthood, but it can occur at any time.

    What are the symptoms of tinea versicolor?

    Typically, the only symptom of tinea versicolor is the white or light brown patches that appear on the skin. Patches may scale slightly but rarely itch or hurt.

    Other common characteristics of the rash include:

    • white, pink or brown patches
    • infection only on the top layers of the skin
    • usually occurs on the trunk
    • does not usually occur on the face
    • patches that worsen in the heat or humidity, or if your child is on steroid therapy or has a weakened immune system
    • patches that are most noticeable in the summer

    The symptoms of tinea versicolor may resemble other skin conditions. Always consult your child's physician for diagnosis.

  • Tests

    How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?

    Tinea versicolor is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. Because the patches seen with this condition are unique, your child's physician can typically make a diagnosis based on a simple physical examination. Your child's doctor may also use an ultraviolet light to see the patches more clearly and may perform skin scrapings of the lesions to help confirm the diagnosis.

  • Treatment usually includes the use of dandruff shampoo on the skin as prescribed by your child's physician. The shampoo is left on the skin overnight and washed off in the morning. To be effective, the shampoo treatment may be required for several nights.

    Tinea versicolor usually recurs, requiring additional treatments, so improvement in the skin may only be temporary. Your child's physician may recommend using the shampoo monthly to help prevent recurrences. Your child's doctor may also prescribe topical creams or oral antifungal medication.

    The treatment will not bring the normal color back to the skin immediately; this will occur naturally and may take several months.

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