How to identify psoriasis and ringworm

Both psoriasis and ringworm cause red, scaly patches on the skin. Knowing the symptoms of each condition can help people to identify their rash.

Psoriasis and ringworm are very different conditions. Ringworm is a fungal infection that will go away with treatment. Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that comes and goes throughout a person’s life.

When someone develops a rash, they may find it difficult to work out what caused it. A doctor can examine or order tests to determine which condition they have.

In this article, we look at the differences between ringworm and psoriasis and compare them with other conditions that can cause similar rashes.

Both psoriasis and ringworm can cause red, scaly patches to appear anywhere on the body. Both can also lead to intense itching.

A person who has never had ringworm before or is having their first psoriasis flare may not know which condition they have.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. It causes red, scaly plaques that may have a gray hue or peel. During a psoriasis flare, a person develops scaly, red, irritated patches of skin because of the skin’s rapid shedding.

Psoriasis is not contagious. Researchers are not sure what causes psoriasis, but it tends to run in families. Certain factors, such as stress or alcohol, can trigger a flare.

Ringworm causes a red, circular, and often scaly rash. Ringworm is highly contagious, spreading quickly through contact with another person who has the condition.

A fungal infection causes ringworm. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with worms.

Both psoriasis and ringworm can develop in similar places. One type of psoriasis called inverse psoriasis can affect the area around the groin. When ringworm affects the groin area, it is called jock itch.

Psoriasis often affects the scalp. When ringworm affects the scalp, it is called tinea capitis.

Some important distinctions between psoriasis and ringworm include:

The shape of the rash

Ringworm is often circular. It typically begins as a rash with a clearly defined border that looks like there is a worm under the skin. The center of the rash appears sunken and may be gray or scaly.

While psoriasis rashes can also be round, the shape is less regular and does not resemble a worm.

Rash risk factors

People develop ringworm after coming into contact with someone else who has the infection. Children, anyone in close contact with children, and people who come into contact with others, such as at the gym, are more likely to get the infection.

Psoriasis is not contagious and can affect anyone.

Rash growth

Psoriasis plaques may spread, appearing on one area of the body and then another.

Ringworm grows larger over several days and can spread to other areas of the body.

Changes in the rash

Unlike ringworm, psoriasis plaques can change in color and texture. They are often red at first and then may become grey and scaly, or crack and bleed.

How the rash feels

Both ringworm and psoriasis rashes are itchy, but the ringworm itch is often more intense. Psoriasis can be painful and may tingle or burn. Some people develop other symptoms with psoriasis, such as a fever or muscle aches.

Heat rash

Sweating or being exposed to high temperatures can lead to a heat rash. For example, a person might develop a heat rash on their legs after sitting in front of a space heater.

The rash is not usually painful and goes away on its own in a few days. In some cases, a person might need to use corticosteroid cream to speed healing.

Allergic reaction

An allergic reaction can trigger an outbreak of hives. Allergic reactions typically appear suddenly, either because of something that came into contact with the skin or a food allergen.

Allergic reactions can cause other symptoms, too, such as difficulty breathing or feeling sick.

Dry skin

Although psoriasis plaques can look very dry and scaly, dry skin does not cause them. Dry skin can crack open and bleed, and may peel. Unlike psoriasis, dry skin does not change color or shape.

Skin blisters

Some types of psoriasis, including guttate psoriasis, look like tiny blisters. A blister due to skin irritation, such as from a shoe rubbing the foot, typically develops over several days, then bursts and goes away. If the blisters do not go away or are spreading, it could be psoriasis or another skin disorder.

Treating psoriasis and ringworm

Doctors can treat ringworm using antifungal creams or oral antifungal medication. With the correct treatment, ringworm usually goes away within 2 to 4 weeks.

People with low immunity or debilitating conditions may develop severe infections due to ringworm. To prevent the infection from getting worse, they may need more aggressive treatment.

Psoriasis is a chronic condition. Flares come and go over time. There is no cure, though people can manage their symptoms using creams, medications, or light therapy. They can also reduce the risk of flares by avoiding triggers, such as stress or drinking alcohol.


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