Difference Between Eczema and Ringworm (With Table)

Most skin infections have similar symptoms like redness, itching, or rashes on the skin. The symptoms and conditions might be difficult to differentiate. The two most common type of skin infections is eczema and ringworm. Both the infection types have different causes, risk factors, and treatments.

Eczema vs Ringworm

The main difference between eczema and ringworm is that eczema is caused by irritants, microbes, allergens, fluctuation in temperature, certain food products while ringworm is caused by fungus. Eczema can spread all over the body but is most prominent in areas like legs hands, feet, arm, and torso while ringworm mainly affects the feet, scalp, beard, nails, and groin.

Eczema is a skin infection found only in humans. It is not a contagious infection. Eczema has multiple patches. The different types of eczema are atopic dermatitis, Allergic contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis, discoid eczema, stasis dermatitis.

On the other hand, ringworm is a skin infection found in humans as well as animals. It is a contagious infection. Ringworm is seen only in one or two patches. The different types of ringworm are ringworm of the scalp, Jock itch or tinea cruris, Ringworm of the body, Athlete’s foot or tinea pedis.

Comparison Table Between Eczema and Ringworm

Parameters of Comparison EczemaRingworm
Causes Irritants, allergens, microbes, hot and cold temperatures, food products, stress, and hormones Three types of fungus – Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton
SymptomsDry, scaly skin, itching in the skin, skin flushing, open, crusted or weeping sores Darkening, peeling of the skin, fissures, scaly patches on the skin, red rashes, hair loss, or even itchy scalp
TypesAtopic dermatitis, Allergic contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, neurodermatitis, discoid eczema, stasis dermatitis Ringworm of the scalp, Jock itch or tinea cruris, Ringworm of the body, Athlete’s foot or tinea pedis
Age group affectedMost common in children Most common in children or people who own pet cats and dogs
Treatment Treatment Topical corticosteroid Creams and ointment, oral medications, antibiotics, topical calcineurin inhibitors, antihistamines, phototherapy, and other injected biologic drugs Ringworm can be treated with medications like anti-fungal ointment, creams, sprays, gels, or oral antifungals like griseofulvin and lifestyle changes

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a condition of the skin which brings itchiness, roughness, cracks, or inflammation to the skin. Some kinds of eczema also cause blisters. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis. Eczema can be triggered by certain foods like dairy or nuts which are allergic to the body. Other than food triggers, there can be environmental triggers also like soap, pollen, smoke, fragrances, and several other factors.

Eczema is not contagious. Some people have a period of symptoms that improves later while some carry the symptoms throughout their life. Since the skin becomes rough, dry, and itchy, it urges the patients to continuously rub and scratch the skin which can lead to other skin infections or make eczema severe.

Some eczema sores and rashes appear gray or brown and later get dark or light skin patches. These patches are termed hyperpigmentation and depigmentation or hyperpigmentation. Such patches are usually treated with steroid creams. Most eczema conditions do not have a particular treatment but can be minimized with certain care like regular moisturizing, wearing softer fabrics, switching to milder soaps and washes, avoiding rubbing or scratching of the skin, and taking lukewarm baths.

Eczema conditions usually flare up in winter hence extra precautions should be taken during this season. There are other topical corticosteroid creams and ointments prescribed to eczema patients. In case of no improvement from tropical ointment, doctors prescribe oral medications, antibiotics, antihistamines, and other therapies to improve the condition.

What is Ringworm?

Ringworm refers to a fungal infection of the skin. Unlike its name, it is not a worm but a fungus. It is also known as dermatophytosis, dermatophyte infection, or even tinea. The lesion formed resembles a worm in the shape of a ring. The skin infection is common in both, humans and animals.

The skin infection appears as red patches on the skin and tends to spread to the other parts of the body like feet, scalp, beard, nails, groin, and several other areas. There are three main types of fungus which are responsible for causing ringworm – Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton.

Most of these fungi are present in the soil as spores. Ringworm is often diagnosed with a black light as the fungus close and has fluorescence under black light. Other tests like skin biopsy or fungal culture or a KOH exam are also done to determine the type of fungus. Ringworm has two main stages the initial stage and the second stage. Ringworm is contagious.

Ringworm can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes. Topical medications like anti-fungal ointment, creams, sprays, or gels are often prescribed to patients with ringworm. Changes in lifestyle like ensuring cleanliness and proper sanitization and wearing loose clothes in the affected area can minimize the existing conditions.

Main Differences Between Eczema and Ringworm

  1. Eczema is not contagious while ringworm is contagious.
  2. Eczema can spread all over the body while ringworm affects certain parts of the body.
  3. Some eczema patches may have a burning sensation while ringworm patches do not have any burning sensation.
  4. Eczema only occurs in humans while ringworm occurs in both humans and animals.
  5. Eczema forms multiple patches on the skin while ringworm forms one or two patches on the skin.

Conclusion

Skin infections are common and can be due to various reasons like germs or other triggers. The most common type of skin infections is eczema and ringworm. Both the infections have similar symptoms and the lesions look similar too. But there are distinct differences in other parameters. Most skin infections have minor symptoms in the initial stages.

These minor symptoms are generally neglected and ignored which can promote the infection to spread to other parts of the body and reach a severe and critical state. It is essential to consult a dermatologist in the appearance of any kind of symptom and avoid self-prescription or over-the-counter medications.

References

  1. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.3402/jchimp.v5.27909
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874113007885
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