Tinea versicolor is a very common fungal infection of the skin. It is caused by a type of yeast that occurs naturally on human skin. Normally, this yeast is harmless, but in certain conditions it can lead to infections, causing the development of a rash, typically around the area of the shoulders, upper arms, neck, chest, and back. Areas that tend to retain moisture, such as the underarms and the underside of the breasts, can also be affected. The skin in the affected areas typically appears discolored it may appear either lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. Although the discoloration is usually in the form of spots, sometimes entire patches of skin can become discolored.
This fungal infection is among the commonest ones to affect humans. Many people suffer from the infection during childhood, and the incidence decreases as people grow older. Tinea versicolor in babies is not very common, but among adolescents it is extremely common. People living in hot and humid climates are especially prone to this infection, and it seems to occur more frequently among men than women.
These are the typical symptoms of tinea versicolor:
The basic cause of tinea versicolor is a fungus that is normally present on all human skin but under normal circumstances is harmless. Under certain conditions however, the balance may be upset and it could become responsible for a variety of problems the Malassezia fungus, formerly known as the Pityrosporum fungus is known to cause a variety of skin infections, ranging from dandruff to dermatitis. This usually happens when humidity is high, thus allowing the growth of the fungus to get out of control. Like all fungi, the Malassezia fungus thrives in warm, humid conditions. In addition, problems with a persons immune system or hormone levels can allow the fungus to grow uncontrollably, leading to an infection. Tinea versicolor seems to be more common in women who are pregnant or on contraceptives, and this may be due to changes in hormone levels. However, there is not enough evidence to conclusively confirm this. Lack of proper nutrition also seems to be a factor that can contribute to tinea versicolor infections.
There are two species of Malassezia that are known to be causes for tinea versicolor. These are the Malassezia globosa fungi, which are responsible for the majority of cases of this infection, and the Malassezia furfur fungus, which is responsible for a relatively small number of cases.
There are a number of different treatments for tinea versicolor. The treatment that is used most often is a course of topical antifungal medication. Selenium sulfide is the key ingredient in most antifungal medications used to treat tinea versicolor. Anti-dandruff shampoos are sometimes an effective tinea versicolor cure, because they usually contain an antifungal element (often selenium sulfide itself). You can apply the shampoo to your skin, leave it on for ten to fifteen minutes, and then wash it off and dry thoroughly. This treatment needs to be repeated daily for 12-14 days. There are several other over the counter products that contain selenium sulfide, which you can use in a similar manner. However, these treatments are not always successful, because they contain a maximum of 1% selenium sulfide. Formulations that contain more than this percentage are only available on prescription. You can try first using an over the counter product, and if this does not work, ask your doctor to prescribe something stronger. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal medication. However, these medications are also not available over the counter, and should only be used under medical supervision.
If youre wondering how to get rid of tinea versicolor without using regular medication, there are a few home remedies and herbal remedies that you can try, but the efficacy of most of these remedies remains questionable, as they are not subjected to the rigorous testing applied to pharmaceuticals:
Remember that like most tinea infections, tinea versicolor has a tendency to recur, especially when the weather becomes hot and humid. It is therefore advisable to repeat whatever treatment has proved effective at least once a month, even after the infection seems to have cleared up. If a full-blown infection recurs, you will need to start daily treatment once again.
When treating tinea versicolor, home remedies can be quite useful. However, if these treatments show no results within a few weeks, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. Stronger medication may be needed, and in some cases, your symptoms may be caused by a condition other than tinea versicolor.
Since malnutrition often seems to be a factor that contributes to tinea versicolor, diet is an important part of your treatment. There are no specific foods that are directly linked to tinea versicolor, but in general, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are known to weaken the immune system. The only way to address this without having identified a specific deficiency is to have a lot of variety in your diet. Avoid an excess of any particular type of food, and at the same time do not leave any particular food out. Fruits and vegetables are of course particularly important, but other foods are necessary too. A lack of fat in the diet can also make it difficult to absorb minerals and vitamins. This is why a strict weight loss diet can sometimes lead to mineral and vitamin deficiencies. If you are trying to lose weight or are on a diet for any other reason, try to ensure that it is not severely restrictive. Moderation is the key to a successful diet, not entirely cutting out carbohydrates or fats, as is sometimes recommended.
It is also thought that an excess of carbohydrates in the diet can aid the growth of yeast, while probiotic foods such as yogurt can inhibit their growth. There isnt enough evidence to back this up, but regularly consuming yogurt and restricting your intake of carbohydrates is unlikely to harm you, so you could try this out.
A tan can make the spots of discoloration in tinea versicolor more prominent, so you may want to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. Although tanning does not aggravate the infection itself, it does make the symptoms more noticeable, and is therefore best avoided.
If you have suffered from tinea versicolor in the past, or are prone to frequent infections, there are a number of steps you could take in addition to your diet. Women should try to observe whether there is a link between contraceptive use and outbreaks of the infection, and then take appropriate action. Personal hygiene is of course another important factor in controlling and preventing any skin infection. Always wear clean clothes, and bathe regularly twice a day if necessary. Try bathing with an antibacterial, antifungal soap. It might also help to dry clean your clothes, especially while you are suffering from tinea versicolor. As far as possible, you should also try to wear light clothes made of natural fibers, since these will keep you cool and dry.