There are many skin conditions that present as an itchy rash. Some of them, like eczema, are household names, while others, like tinea versicolor, don't get as much attention. Here are four things you need to know about this little-known skin disease.
What is tinea versicolor?
Tinea versicolor is a skin condition caused by fungus called Malassezia. Malassezia is naturally found on human skin, but if the fungus grows too quickly, it can cause tinea versicolor or other skin conditions.
The fungus changes the pigmentation of your skin, which leads to the development of discolored patches that look like a rash. The patches can be itchy and may take on a scaly appearance.
What causes the fungal overgrowth?
The fungus responsible for tinea versicolor isn't harmful until it overgrows, and lots of factors can spur this growth. Hot or humid weather can help the fungus grow, as can other factors like how oily your skin is and the strength of your immune system.
How common is it?
Tinea versicolor is a fairly common skin condition, especially in places with high temperatures and high humidity levels. It affects a staggering 50% of the population in the tropical nation of Western Samoa, compared to only 1% in cold, dry Sweden.
The national prevalence in the United States is estimated to be between 2% and 8% of the population, though since many people don't seek treatment for this condition, the real number may be higher. It's likely that it's more common in the southern and southeastern United States due to the high heat and humidity levels.
Can it be treated?
Tinea versicolor is treated by killing the fungus responsible for the infection. Your dermatologist may prescribe anti-fungal soaps or creams to get rid of the yeast and give your skin a chance to heal. Anti-fungal medications are also available in pill form if creams and soaps aren't enough.
If you live in a very hot, humid environment, your dermatologist may also give you a medicated soap to use regularly to keep the yeast from growing back. The purpose of this soap is to keep the yeast under control and prevent a recurrence of tinea versicolor.
Tinea versicolor doesn't get much attention, but it's common in hot, humid places. If you develop an itchy rash during the summer months, it may be tinea versicolor. For more information about this and other skin conditions, contact a dermatologist in your area.