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Pityriasis Versicolor

What Is Pityriasis Versicolor?

Pityriasis versicolor is a fungal skin infection caused by a type of yeast. It's a common cause of skin rash in teens and young adults. It causes lots of round and oval-shaped patches on the skin, especially on the chest, back, and upper arms.

It's also called tinea versicolor.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Pityriasis Versicolor?

Pityriasis versicolor (pronounced: pit-uh-RYE-uh-sis VUR-si-kul-ur) skin patches usually are on the torso and upper arms. But they can also appear on the face and neck, especially in young kids. The patches can be white, brown, red, or pink.

The patches are dry, flaky, or scaly, and can be flat or slightly raised. They may be a little itchy but often aren't felt at all. They can start off small and round, then join together to make much larger patches.

The yeast prevents the skin from tanning, so the patches can look lighter than the surrounding skin, especially in the summer. A person might be bothered by their appearance or not even notice them.

What Causes Pityriasis Versicolor?

Pityriasis versicolor is caused by a type of yeast that normally lives on the skin. When the environment it lives in gets warm and moist, it can grow out of control and cause symptoms.

Is Pityriasis Versicolor Contagious?

Pityriasis versicolor is not contagious.

How Do People Get Pityriasis Versicolor?

Hot, humid weather and lots of sweating can create a warm, moist environment for the yeast to overgrow. This is why the infection is more common in tropical countries. The yeast also likes an oily environment, so oily skin can play a part (and of course, teens and young adults can have oily skin).

Sometimes pityriasis versicolor runs in families. It's also more likely to affect people who have a weakened immune system or who are malnourished.

How Is Pityriasis Versicolor Diagnosed?

If you have pityriasis versicolor, your doctor might diagnose it just by looking at the patches. He or she also might ask about the symptoms and your lifestyle. Sometimes a doctor will scrape off a small sample of the flaky infected skin to look at under a microscope or to test in a lab. Don't worry — this doesn't hurt.

How Is Pityriasis Versicolor Treated?

Over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams, lotions, or shampoos (used as a body wash) may solve a mild infection. More serious infections may need prescription medicine, either applied to the skin or takens as a pill or syrup.

Treatment usually takes 1 to 4 weeks. Sometimes the infection comes back. If that happens, treatment is repeated.

How Long Does Pityriasis Versicolor Last?

Pityriasis versicolor usually clears up quickly with treatment. But the skin patches may stay discolored for weeks or months. To make them less noticeable, be sure to use sunscreen to prevent your skin from tanning or burning.

Can Pityriasis Versicolor Be Prevented?

Someone who keeps getting pityriasis versicolor might need to repeated, regular treatment (weekly or monthly) to prevent further infections.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 22, 2018

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