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Tinea versicolor: Diagnosis and treatment


How do dermatologists diagnose tinea versicolor?

A dermatologist can often look at the skin and tell whether a patient has tinea versicolor. If there is any doubt, the dermatologist will do one of the following to make an accurate diagnosis:

  • Scrape off a bit of the skin. This will be examined under a microscope.

  • Look at the skin with a special device called a Wood's lamp. The dermatologist will hold the Wood's lamp about 4 or 5 inches from the affected skin. If the patient has tinea versicolor, the affected skin appears yellowish green in color when looked at with this lamp.

How do dermatologists treat tinea versicolor?

What a dermatologist prescribes depends on several things. These include where the tinea versicolor appears on your body, how much skin has tinea versicolor, how thick the spots have grown, and the climate.

Treatment for tinea versicolor may include the following.

  • Medicine applied to the skin: This is the most common treatment. There are anti-fungal shampoos, soaps, creams, and lotions that can keep the yeast under control. The active ingredient in these medicines is often selenium sulfide, ketoconazole, or pyrithione zinc.

  • Medicated cleansers: Tinea versicolor often returns, especially when a person lives in a place that is warm and humid. Using a medicated cleanser once or twice a month, especially during warm and humid periods, can prevent the yeast from overgrowing again.

  • Anti-fungal pills: A dermatologist may prescribe these pills if the tinea versicolor covers a large area of the body, is thick, or often returns after it is treated. These pills are taken for a short time. During this time, your dermatologist will monitor you.

Outcome

With treatment, the yeast is easy to kill. However, the skin may stay lighter (or darker) for weeks or months. The skin will eventually return to its normal color. To help even out your skin tone, you should protect your skin from the sun and not tan.

Tinea versicolor can return. When the air outdoors is warm and humid, the yeast can quickly grow out of control. Some people who live in a tropical climate may need to use a medicated cleanser year round to prevent the yeast from overgrowing. People who live in an area that becomes warm and moist each spring may see tinea versicolor return every year.

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