Pityriasis versicolor: symptoms and prevention

Pityriasis versicolor is an infection caused by the fungus Malassezia, which induces the development of patches of different colors, evident especially in summer.

Pityriasis versicolor is a very frequent skin infection especially in summer, since it develops more in case of abundant sweat and in hot and humid environments.

Commonly called “sea fungus”, since the spots it causes are seen more in summer, when the skin is tanned, its scientific name describes well how this disease manifests itself.

The word “pityriasis” (from the Greek pityron, which means bran) refers to the presence of very fine scales similar to bran present on the patches in the active phase, while the term “versicolor” (from the Latin versicolorem, ie that changes color) indicates that the skin patches can take on different colors.

The cause, a dermatophyte fungus

The culprit is a fungus, the Malassezia, which generally coexists peacefully with man. It is present in the microbial flora of the skin of all healthy individuals, particularly in areas rich in sebum.

This explains why the disease is very rare in children and the elderly, in which sebaceous secretion is reduced.

In particular conditions, such as hot-humid environment, seborrhea, or excessive sweating, or in case of predisposed skin (for hormonal reasons or genetic predisposition), the fungus develops more passing from the harmless to the pathogenic form.

Small spots of different colors

Pityriasis versicolor is characterized by an alteration of skin pigmentation: the affected areas (mainly the arms, chest and neck) are covered with irregular spots, of variable number and color (caffelatte, yellow-brown, pink or non-pigmented).

Light-colored spots are the most frequent and the appearance after sun exposure is characteristic. Their origin is due to the damaging action of the fungus against melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin pigmentation, through the inhibition of tyrosinase, the enzyme essential for the production of melanin.

Often the spots converge with each other and the affected area takes on a “map” appearance. Itching is rare and appears only when you are hot.

It is usually diagnosed with clinical observation alone, preferably with the help of Wood’s light, an ultraviolet lamp. Placed at close distance from the skin, under its rays the lesions produced by pityriasis versicolor give off a yellow light.

Rarely is it necessary a microscopic or cultural examination to be performed both on material taken from the skin. Although it must be distinguished from other skin diseases such as Gilbert’s pityriasis rosea, Tinea corporis, seborrheic dermatitis and vitiligo.

The rules of prevention

Pityriasis versicolor is a temporary blemish that however tends to have a chronic course. It is therefore better to contact the dermatologist who can establish, depending on the case, the most suitable therapeutic strategy.

However, it is possible to limit recurrence, unfortunately frequent, or prevent the appearance of mycosis by following some rules of behavior.

First of all, factors that can favor the development of the fungus should be avoided as much as possible. Apart from a certain genetic predisposition, on which we can not act, even excessive sweating and hot humid climate are conditions to pay attention to.

If you do sports, especially in the gym or pool, and in any case during the hottest period, you must be careful to rinse frequently and, above all, dry the skin well.Do not use synthetic clothing (except swimsuits, to be changed as soon as you get out of the water), but prefer natural fibers, such as cotton and linen, which let the skin breathe. Clothing that is too tight or tight is also to be avoided.

Do not use oily cosmetics and, even for sunscreens, prefer creams to oils, since their fatty content can favor the transformation of the fungus into the parasitic form.

Some drugs can also predispose to the development of pityriasis, including steroids.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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