How to tell the difference between psoriasis and ringworm

It is often difficult to differentiate between skin conditions. Two skin conditions often confused with each other are psoriasis and ringworm (dermatophytosis). Knowing the symptoms of each condition can help you to identify your rash. 

What are the differences? 

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition caused by the rapid growth of skin cells and inflammation. It changes the life cycle of your skin cells.

Typical cell turnover allows skin cells to grow, live, die and slough off on a regular basis. Skin cells affected by psoriasis grow rapidly but stay on the body. This causes a build-up of skin cells on the skin’s surface, which leads to thick, red, scaly patches of skin. These patches are most common on the knees, elbows, genitals and toenails.

Ringworm, on the other hand, is a temporary red, circular rash that develops on your skin and, despite its name, is not caused by a worm, but a fungal infection. The rash typically appears as a red circle with clear or normal-looking skin in the centre. Ringworm is highly contagious and spreads through skin contact. 

Symptoms of psoriasis

Not everyone's psoriasis symptoms are the same. Symptoms may include:

  • Red patches of skin
  • Silvery scales over red patches of skin
  • Dry, cracked skin that might bleed
  • Itching, burning or soreness
  • Sore or stiff joints
  • Thick, ridged or pitted nails

Psoriasis may appear as one or two patches, or it may cause clusters of patches that grow to cover a large area.

Treatment can reduce symptoms, but psoriasis patches may be an issue for the rest of your life. Thankfully, many people experience periods of low or no activity. These periods, which are called remission, may, however, be followed by periods of increased activity.

psoriasis ringworm

Symptoms of ringworm 

The signs and symptoms of ringworm may include:

  • A red, scaly area that may or may not itch
  • A raised border around the scaly area
  • An expanding scaly area that forms a circle
  • A circle with red bumps or scales and a clear centre

You may develop more than one circle, which can overlap.

Treating psoriasis and ringworm 

Both ringworm and psoriasis can be effectively managed and treated. Currently, psoriasis can’t be cured, but treatments can reduce symptoms.

Ringworm treatments can eliminate the infection. This will reduce the chances of passing it on to other people. 

When to see your doctor 

Make an appointment to see your dermatologist if you have developed an unusual spot on your skin. If you think you came into contact with a person or animal with ringworm, be sure to tell your doctor.

If you have a family history of psoriasis, mention that as well. In most cases, however, your doctor can diagnose the condition just by conducting a thorough skin examination.

Image credit: iStock

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