Pityriasis versicolor: What are those brown spots on the skin?

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Pityriasis versicolor: What are those brown spots on the skin?


Have you noticed light or dark spots on your skin? Then it could be pityriasis versicolor, a common fungal skin infection caused by yeast, often confused with skin spots and sun spots.

Read also: Types of pigment spots: white, brown and red spots on the skin

© Getty Images/Pityriasis versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor is caused by the yeast Malassezia furfur. The condition is characterized by the appearance of fine, well-defined scaly patches of variable (multicolored) pigmentation, lighter or darker than the surrounding skin, especially on the trunk and shoulders.

Read also: Vitiligo: white pigment spots on the skin

What are the symptoms of pityriasis versicolor?

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Pityriasis versicolor

Pityriasis versicolor is usually asymptomatic, although some patients may complain of pruritus (itching). The main symptom is scaly patches of different colors (beige, brown, pink or white).

The spots do not turn brown, and if they are white, they are more noticeable in the summer. People with naturally dark skin may see light-colored spots and vice versa. Hyper- or hypopigmentation of the lesions can persist for several months and the risk of recurrence is high.

Read also: White spots on the skin: what are their types?

Is pityriasis versicolor dangerous?

Pityriasis versicolor is a benign fungal infection and is not considered contagious. It occurs mainly in healthy adults, although some people have a genetic predisposition to the spread of this fungus. Other risk factors include heat and humidity, as well as a weakened immune system due to corticosteroids, pregnancy, diabetes or other conditions.

Read also: What types of fungal infections should you be careful of?

What treatments exist?

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© Getty Images / Pityriasis versicolor of the shoulder

All topical antifungal medications can be used to treat pityriasis versicolor. These include shampoos containing selenium sulfide or salicylic acid sulfate, soaps enriched with zinc pyrithione, and oral medications such as fluconazole.

To avoid new infections, doctors (general doctors and dermatologists) recommend strict hygiene and regular use of zinc pyrithione soap.


Last updated: November 2023

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Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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