A fungus among us– Musings of a NYC dermatologist

Have you been noticing discolored spots on your neck, chest, back and arms?  This may be a sign of warmer weather, humidity as well as a minor fungal infection– tinea versicolor.

Our skin is the home of a variety of organisms including bacteria, viruses and fungi (including yeast).  Tinea versicolor, also know as pityriasis versicolor,  is a condition caused by the overgrowth of yeast that live on our skin.  Affected people develop pink, tan, brown or lighter slightly scaly flat lesions most commonly on the chest, back, arms and neck.  It tends to occur in warm humid months, particularly on people who perspire a lot.  It also occurs more commonly on people who work out, do bikram yoga, and linger in their sweaty clothes.  It may also  itch.

Tinea versicolor may be treated with topical or oral medicine.  The condition is related to dandruff and can sometimes respond to washing the area with dandruff shampoo. The discoloration tends to persist for some time after the infection has cleared (there should be no scale if the infection is gone).  Tinea versicolor tends to recur because the fungus is always there.  It’s just when the conditions are right, when the skin is warm and moist, it overgrows.


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