What is Tinea Versicolor | An Investigative Look into This Common Fungal Infection
The concept of yeast growing and thriving on your skin is not an appetizing topic. While many conversations regarding bodily yeast refer to infections in the genitals or on the tongue, yeast colonies can proliferate in practically any area of your body. Perhaps one of the most common types of yeast infections is also one of the most under-discussed. Tinea versicolor is a unique, yet common, fungal infection in which normal skin flora begins to overdevelop into a potentially serious problem. While you, or someone you know, may have tinea versicolor, few truly understand the source, symptoms and treatment options of this specialized yeast infection. As with many areas of human health, the more you know about tinea versicolor, the greater your ability to win this biological battle.
From Natural Skin Flora to Unnatural Yeast Proliferation – The Underlining Causes of Tinea Versicolor
Did you know yeast is present throughout your entire body? In fact, there are several variations of bodily yeast found throughout your skin and within your intestines. While the presence of yeast is considered part of the normal human cutaneous flora, it's concentration and ability to physically alter the health and appearance of skin is generally maintained through natural skin barriers and a delicate balance maintained by diet and biological factors. However, when this balancing act become disturbed through hormonal changes, environmental factors or immune system alterations, a widespread infection can take place.
It's believed, per The Merck Manuals, a dimorphic fungus known as Malassezia furfur is responsible for tinea versicolor outbreaks. This natural component of skin flora is present along the surface of the skin in most individuals; however, much like any other yeast infection, when the delicate balance within the flora becomes disturbed, an infection begins to cultivate. Unlike other yeast infections, tinea versicolor can afflict nearly any portion of your body.
The primary causes of tinea versicolor is not necessarily related to underlining health issues, as the American Academy of Dermatology states even those who are relatively healthy can suffer an overgrowth of Malassezia furfur. Although most people are at risk of developing this chronic skin infection, research has found several factors which predispose individuals to tinea versicolor. These include:
- Environmental Causes – People who live in hot, humid climates are statistically more likely to develop mild to severe tinea versicolor. This skin condition is especially common in tropical locations where air moisture remains relatively high throughout the year.
- Immuno-suppression Patients – Those who have a compromised immune system due to disease, medication or physical conditions, such as pregnancy, are likely to experience some level of yeast outbreak.
Tinea Versicolor – Common Signs and Symptoms
Unlike other forms of yeast infections, such as Candida, tinea versicolor symptoms are not painful and for many go unnoticed until the flora colony has progressed over a large portion of the body. In the most minor cases, tinea results in slight discoloration of the skin. However, in moderate to severe infections, the overgrowth of Malassezia furfur results in scaly patches. These patches are easily identifiable as they feature a unique coloration, which typically ranges from white to tan – even from pink to brown.
The discoloration is caused by the production of azelaic acid, which features bleaching qualities. The hypo-pigmentation commonly associated with this condition is the result of lower tyrosinase production. In the most fundamental sense, tyrosinase is a copper enzyme responsible for manufacturing melanin, which provides “color” to the skin. Therefore, by inhibiting this enzyme, affected areas feature a lighter hue than surrounding skin.
Treating Tinea Versicolor – Common and Effective Treatment Options
The most common treatment for tinea versicolor include topical application of anti-fungal ointments. While topical ointments are typically prescribed, for severe infections oral medications, such as fluconazole or ketoconazole, are recommended. Although many physicians recommend prescription medications for treatment, natural treatments are surprisingly effective in restoring balance.
Some of the most recommended natural treatment options include colloidal silver soap, sulfur lavender soap and various herbal extracts known for their anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, such as the formulation found in the Naturasil Tinea Versicolor Treatments.
While it's possible to treat this fungal infection through natural or chemical ointments, the physical evidence of this condition can remain for months or years after the yeast proliferation is under control. Another aspect of treatment you must be aware of is the likelihood of a recurrence. Per The Merck Manuals, recurrence is almost guaranteed. However, you may reduce the likelihood by washing with anti-fungal soap, such as zinc pyrithione, and applying an anti-fungal ointment at least once-monthly.