Interview – Michael W. of Arkansas.
Tinea Versicolor (TV) affects people from all walks of life and can add a new dimension to living. If you don’t know already, TV is a peculiar skin fungus that develops on oilier parts of the body, particularly the back, shoulders, and neck. It thrives in hot, moist environments and presents as itchy red or brown spots that shade the skin and keep it from tanning.
Ultimately, the bearer of TV develops white blotches on the body that attract unwanted attention from others. Some people are just curious about the disorder; others become concerned, wondering if TV is contagious. And even though TV is not contagious, this concern and unwanted attention can create delicate situations for those trying to live with the disorder.
In an effort to help dispel myths and to help others cope with TV, we often seek out feedback from our visitors and subscribers. We recently had the opportunity to interview Michael W, a 49-year old Arkansas native living with Tinea Versicolor.
Michael’s case is compelling in that it has presented him with many challenges, particularly in his profession as an electrical contractor—a profession that keeps him in the hot and humid Arkansas sun.
It’s an important interview and one that sheds light on the difficulties of living with TV. We’ve posted a transcript of the interview below in the hope that you might learn from Michael’s experiences, taking away information you can apply to your own battle with TV. We found Michael to be charming, intelligent, and often humorous in his answers. It’s an interview you don’t want to miss.
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Tinea-Vesicolor.net: Can you tell our readers a little bit about you and why you agreed to this interview?
Michael W: My name is Michael W. (Full name omitted for privacy.) I’m 49. I’ve lived in Malvern, Arkansas for the past 17 years. I’m a master electrician and contractor. Single. No kids. I wanted to do the interview because Tinea Versicolor, or “teeny” as I like to call it, isn’t really that well known, but it’s sure difficult to live with. I wanted to help others…just tell them what I’ve learned, I guess.
TV.net: When did you first notice TV and how was a diagnosis made?
MW: I had developed tonsillitis when I was about 12 or 13 years old. When the doctor was palpating my neck, he noticed some spots developing. He said, “You’ve got teeny.” I said, “I’ve got what?” He said, “Tinea Versicolor. It’s a skin fungus.” I guess he knew it just by looking at the type and texture of the spots. But back then it wasn’t that bad. But a year or two later it spread to my shoulders and back. I played a lot of sports, particularly basketball, so I sweated a lot.
TV.net: So you’ve had it for over 30 years. How often does it flare up? Where do you see it most?
MW: It’s always there. Teeny never goes away. It might lay dormant, especially in the winter, but it will be back. Spring seems to be the worst time of year for flare-ups…summer too. But Spring tends to be really humid, and my skin tends to be oily, so it thrives on me then…mostly from the waist up.
TV.net: How bad does it get?
MW: Man! Some days it’s so bad I can’t stand it. I have to take off my shirt because it itches so bad. Sometimes I scratch the spots so much that they become bleeding welts! Particularly in my twenties and thirties. Man! Those years were tough. I’ve even had to miss work because the itching was so bad. I have to really pay attention. I’ve gotten so used to living with Teeny that I can sense when I’m about to have an outbreak. When I sense it, I get out of the sun and do what I can to stop it from happening.
TV.net: What type of treatment methods have you tried? Which have worked and which haven’t?
MW: Wow! I’ve tried just about everything! The treatment method that’s worked the best has been prescription Lamisil pills. But I had to stop taking them because the doctor said the medicine was too hard on my kidneys. So I always go back to the old reliable Selsun Blue shampoo with the higher concentration of selenium sulfide. Regular Selsun soaks keep it under control. I use a battery-operated brush to apply it to my back. Ordered off the television. But man! I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years. There was one clear liquid I tried at the request of the doctor. I don’t remember the name of it, but it stunk so bad…it was unbearable! (Laughs) People couldn’t stand to be near me it was so foul! Another thing that worked well, but which was ironically bad for the skin, was chlorine tablets. I’d put a couple in my bathwater and soak. I’d discovered one summer that spending a lot of time in a pool kept Teeny away. The chlorine controls it, but it’s hard on your skin creating other problems. Tried Tinactin spray, but didn’t really work for me. But it might work for someone else. That’s the funny thing about this skin problem. It affects people differently.
TV.net: What type of grief do you get from other people when they see the spots?
MW: (Laughs) Stupid stuff. “Leper.” That’s a common one from friends. Guess they think it’s fun to tease. I just laugh it off…try to use humor. I’ll take off my shirt and say, “Wanna see it snow?” Then I’ll just rub my hand over the scaly spots. Skin flakes start to fall and people run…grossed out. Seriously though, some are afraid to touch me. Others might avoid my towels or something like that. I tell them it’s not contagious, but people think they know everything about it. “If you’d get cured, you wouldn’t be itching. Go to the doctor.” I tell them that there is no cure and it’s not contagious, but they don’t believe me. It gets frustrating.
TV.net: How has that affected your self-esteem? Do you try to hide the spots?
MW: As a teenager…it really affected me. I’m normally an outgoing person. It runs in my family. But I was quieter then. Now, I’m just self-conscious outside of my normal crowd…especially in short-sleeve weather because Teeny sometimes spreads down my arms. When the outbreak is particularly bad, I won’t take off my shirt. I don’t care if I’m swimming or how hot it is outside. If the outbreak is bad, I won’t take off my shirt. It’s embarrassing. But mostly, I’ve learned to accept Teeny as part of who I am now. I’ve adjusted. I do what I can to control it…and the frustration. Doesn’t do any good to get stressed out. I found that when I’m stressed out, the Teeny spreads. I’ll have an outbreak and I don’t want that!
TV.net: Thanks for sharing your experiences, Michael. I think visitors to our site will really learn a lot from you.
MW: Thanks for talking to me. Hope it helps.