Updated: July 27, 2011 10:34AM
Dear Dr. Gott: I have been plagued with an extensive tinea versicolor skin infection on my back and abdomen since I was a teenager. I was treated by at least five doctors over the years. One suggested using Selsun Blue shampoo as a lotion overnight for several days, which was unpleasant and only provided a few weeks of relief. The infection even returned within about four to six months of taking oral antifungal medication. My last doctor said these meds were dangerous to the liver. I am an otherwise healthy woman in my 50s.
About three years ago, I used the only sunblock I happened to have on hand, Banana Boat for Kids SPF 50. After two days of application following my morning shower, I noticed my tinea versicolor disappearing! I kept applying it daily, and the skin infection completely cleared within about a week. With faithful daily use of this or the “baby” version of the brand, it has never returned. This was such an amazing and accidental discovery — an easy, safe and low-cost remedy — that I must share it to benefit other sufferers.
Do you think the key is the 2.4 percent titanium dioxide? I am a label reader, and I don’t recall previously using a lotion with this component. I am concerned that someday the manufacturer will discontinue or change the product, which is another reason I hope you will print this letter.
Dear Reader: Tinea versicolor is a common fungal infection that causes patches of skin to become discolored or lose pigmentation. It is most common in teens and young adults.
Symptoms include small, scaly patches of discolored (white, pink, tan or dark brown) skin and possible mild itching. The patches grow slowly and tend to become more noticeable following sun exposure. It usually affects the neck, back, upper arms and chest.
Tinea versicolor may be present on healthy skin. It is when the fungus becomes overgrown that infection occurs. This typically happens during warm, humid temperatures when excessive sweating and oily skin become more common. It can also be the result of hormonal changes and a suppressed immune system.
Treatment begins with over-the-counter antifungal creams. If these fail to provide improvement or the infection is severe to widespread, prescription topical or oral medications may be necessary. Over-the-counters include Selsun Blue shampoo (or the generic equivalent), miconazole, terbinafine and clotrimozle.
Unfortunately, infection can recur. Persistent cases may require once- or twice-monthly medication to prevent the fungus from overgrowing and infection occurring.
I don’t know why the sunscreen works for you, but I cannot argue with a three-year success rate. It is inexpensive and safe, so I am passing on your tip to my readers. I hope other sufferers have the same fantastic results you have had.
Dear Dr. Gott: I am a 31-year-old single mother who suffers from severe back pain and depression/anxiety. My doctor currently has me taking more than 13 prescription drugs daily. I feel overmedicated, but when I talk to him, all he does it prescribe more pills. What can I do?
Dear Reader: Based on your brief note, it appears that your doctor isn’t listening to you at all. I recommend you switch to another physician who will sit down with you to review your medications and determine which ones can be eliminated. You should also have a physical examination and imaging studies to determine the cause of your back pain. I also recommend blood work to check your liver and kidney functions and, more important, to ensure that the medications aren’t causing more harm than good.