Eczema Vs Ringworm

Eczema and ringworm produce symptoms that appear the same but are different – one is caused by a contagious fungal infection. Let's take a look at eczema vs. ringworm.

What are the main differences between eczema and ringworm?

Are you scratching your head to find out if that rash on your arm is eczema or ringworm? Before exploring the differences, let’s address the similarities:

Both eczema and ringworm present a cluster of similar symptoms, such as:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Scaly skin

Many people mix up the two conditions, however, the underlying causes and treatment of both conditions are different. One type of eczema, in particular, is very similar in appearance to ringworm. Dermatologists refer to this type of eczema as nummular eczema. Other common names include:

  • Discoid eczema
  • Nummular dermatitis

Main differences:

The main differences between nummular eczema and ringworm are:

  • Nummular eczema: caused by autoimmune disease
  • Ringworm: caused by a fungal infection

A dermatologist has the knowledge and tools to determine what you’re experiencing on the spot. If an initial eczema treatment is provided with no response, the dermatologist will most likely complete a culture test to check for fungi – the main reason for ringworm infections.

Eczema vs. ringworm: The causes of eczema

Eczema is also known as dermatitis and it affects individuals of all age groups, including infants and seniors. Medical professionals now know that eczema is caused by an immunodeficiency. The body responds to certain stimuli, triggers, or toxins with a substance release in the bloodstream – which results in eczema rashes.

There is still a lot that isn’t understood about eczema, though. As a result, there is no magic cure, just treatments for the relief of symptoms.

Causes of ringworm:

Ringworm is a type of skin infection which is caused by a fungi – not worms or parasites, despite the name.

The fungi responsible for ringworm infections are multiple and vast. The common thread, however, is that all types of ringworm fungi are categorized as “dermatophytes”. These type of fungi thrive in all types of environments, but they are most prevalent in hot and humid settings, such as in locker rooms, indoor pools, or tropical climates.

Like eczema, ringworm infections are marked by scaly and raised rashes, which may itch. Similarly, there are multiple types of ringworm, as is the case with eczema. Some of the most common forms of ringworm are:

  • Jock itch
  • Athlete’s foot
  • Nail infections

Depending on the area affected, ringworm may be classified by different medical terms, including:

  • Ringworm in the feet, including toes and soles of feet – Athlete’s foot or tinea pedis
  • Ringworm in the groin or private area – jock itch or tinea cruris
  • Ringworm in the nails - Tinea unguium or onychomycosis
  • Ringworm in the skin or hand area - Tinea corporis or tinea manuum

Ringworm infections should never be left as-is. Over-the-counter or prescription strength treatments can be used to stop a rash in its track, before it grows and spreads to other areas of the body.

Another contrast between eczema and ringworm is:

  • Ringworm is contagious
  • Eczema is not infectious

Ringworm can be contracted by coming into touching with an infected person, pet, or thing. Skin contact should therefore be avoided with persons whom you know are infected until treatment is complete.

You should also change or disinfect affected items, like towels, toothbrushes, and other personal items after treatment to prevent reinfections.

Treatments for ringworm are explored later in this guide.

Symptoms of eczema:

Eczema, like ringworm, appears scaly, red, and circular. Patients often describe mild to severe itchiness that is unrelenting without treatment. Some eczema rashes are dry and flaky while others are wet and open.

Some other common symptoms that are associated with eczema include:

  • Patches with a leather like appearance
  • Crusty skin
  • Oozing
  • Swollen and raised skin
  • Affected area looks darker than the surrounding skin

Symptoms of ringworm:

In addition to large patches that appear ring-shaped, some of the other symptoms that are associated with ringworm on the skin include:

  • A bad smelling odor
  • Mild to moderate itching
  • Pain and swelling
  • Skin that peels, blisters, or cracks
  • Varying degrees of a burning or stinging sensation
  • Bumps with pus
  • Balding (in the hair)

In nail ringworm infections, the affected nail tissue may thicken and become discolored. Some nails become yellowish while others are darker. Some patients even report crumbling or recessed nails.

How to treat Eczema:

Because no two eczema patients are alike, this skin condition is sometimes hard to treat. For the most part, dermatologists know that eczema flare-ups occur as a result of common triggers such as:

  • Perfumes
  • Foods
  • Laundry detergents
  • Soaps

Many of these products exacerbate the skin condition. Therefore, patients who notice an eczema flareup after using certain products should avoid future use.

Your dermatologist or doctor may also recommend the following tips for treating eczema:

  • Take lukewarm baths – like most skin conditions that react to irritants like hot or cold showers, eczema is no different. If you have reoccurring eczema, try taking lukewarm showers instead.
  • Use soap for sensitive skin – check out soaps, shower gels, or foam that are designed for people with sensitive skin. These products are generally free of fragrances, parabens, and other eczema irritants. Plus, they keep the skin looking and feeling moisturized.
  • Take it easy – keep your skin rash-free by getting enough exercise and rest. Also, stress-inducers should be avoided, as most eczema patients report an increased risk of flare-ups during stressful times. If you frequently find yourself in high-stress situations, such as at school or work, research coping mechanisms such as meditation for keeping eczema flareups under control.

How to treat ringworm:

Now that we have explored treatment options for eczema, let’s put ringworm cures under the microscope:

Proven treatments for ringworm are good at:

  • Wiping out the underlying infection
  • Stopping itching and redness
  • Preventing the spread of the infection

If your doctor suspects a ringworm infection, a culture test is generally taken to confirm the observation.

An assortment of antifungal medicines are available by prescription to stop the infection in its tracks. Most of these antifungal treatments for ringworm are topical medicines, which are dispensed as creams, gels, or sprays. In some cases, however, such as ringworm on the scalp, oral RX medicines like griseofulvin are prescribed.