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No one wants to deal with ringworm or eczema. Both are annoying skin conditions that will require treatment. However, seeking treatment requires knowing if you are dealing with one or the other. 

So, how can you tell the difference between ringworm and eczema? What is the most obvious indicator? How do their symptoms vary? Keep reading to find out the answers to all of these questions. 

The Biggest Difference Between Ringworm and Eczema

The most obvious difference between ringworm and eczema is the shape and visual appearance. This makes it relatively easy to determine whether you are dealing with one condition or the other. 

Ringworm is typically round and has a well-defined edge to it. Ringworm will also often be accompanied by small black dots, which are located in the center of the ringworm ring. Meanwhile, eczema can take on many other shapes and is usually far less defined. 

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Ringworm vs. Eczema Symptoms

While the above gives some of the most obvious symptoms of ringworm and eczema, there are many other differences. 

Understanding the full range of symptoms makes it clear which one you are dealing with. If the condition has more in common with the symptoms of one rather than the other, it is likely that condition. 

Symptoms of Ringworm

  • A round rash with a well-defined edge to it: The rash appears in a ring shape, which is where ringworm gets its name. 
  • Black dots in the center of the rash: This doesn’t always present in every case of ringworm but is something that defines it in some cases from other skin conditions. 
  • Itching: This may be mild but can be very severe as well. 
  • Spreading: Ringworm often spreads around the body with ease and can go from one location to another quickly. 
  • Spreading to other people: Ringworm can spread from person to person almost as easily as it spreads through an individual body. However, this usually requires some sort of skin-to-skin contact or something else that allows it to transfer from one person to another. 
  • Red, dry, and scaly rash: The rash that comes with ringworm is almost always red and dry. It is also usually scaly and can take on a look that makes it look like the skin suffering from the rash is recovering from a burn. 
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A person with Eczema applying white cream on their hands

Symptoms of Eczema

  • An irregular rash: Eczema often appears in dry patches rather than well-defined shapes. These can be found anywhere on the body but are particularly common on the hands, feet, wrists, ankles, chest, neck, and eyelids. For infants, it is also common on the scalp and face. 
  • Red or brown/gray coloration: While other skin conditions, like ringworm, are typically just red, eczema ranges a bit in color. It can be red or a brownish-gray color. It can also fall anywhere in the spectrum between these colors. In people of color, eczema can also make the follicles more prominent
  • Raised bumps: Eczema also presents through a range of small, raised bumps. These bumps have the potential to leak fluid when they are scratched and, after doing so, will form a crusty layer over the bump. 
  • Itchiness: Eczema is almost always itchy. This itchiness tends to be more severe at night rather than during the day. 
  • Raw skin: Often, eczema will lead to skin that is raw and swollen. This isn’t exactly from the eczema itself but rather from the constant itching. This aggravates and hurts the skin, causing it to become raw. Using a solution to fight against itching can help prevent this symptom from appearing. 
  • Not contagious: Eczema is not contagious and won’t spread to others. So, if there is a skin condition that spreads from one person to another, it is likely something else. 
  • Lasts for a long time: Eczema often lasts much longer than other skin conditions. In fact, eczema has the potential to be chronic, meaning those suffering from it may have it for years or their entire lives. Though it can last for a long time, it usually doesn’t maintain the same degree of intensity for the entire time. Instead, it goes through periods when the eczema flares up before subsiding again. 
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Ringworm vs. Eczema Treatment

As ringworm and eczema are very different, the treatments for them differ as well. With both, seeing a doctor to receive the best care for your individual situation is recommended. 

Ringworm is a skin condition that results from a fungal infection. Therefore, treatment for ringworm involves killing off this fungal infection. Doing so requires the use of antifungal medication, which can either come over the counter or through a prescription from a medical provider. 

Eczema will vary in treatment depending on its exact cause. Eczema resulting from an allergic reaction will typically necessitate antihistamines or topical corticosteroids. This same plan may involve avoiding foods that cause flare-ups. Once again, the best way to determine what will work best for an individual condition is to work with a doctor to develop a treatment plan. 

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Preventing Ringworm and Eczema

In some cases, it is possible to prevent ringworm and eczema from appearing in the first place. The best way to fight against them is through good hygiene. This includes properly washing your skin and keeping it clean. This can help keep your skin clear of the problems that lead to these conditions. 

In addition, prevention involves reducing or avoiding exposure. Coming into direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has ringworm can spread the infection, so avoiding this helps. Washing clothes that came in contact with a previous infection helps too. Meanwhile, if you already have eczema, scratching it will increase the risk of it spreading across your body, so this should also be avoided. 

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People suffering from chronic eczema might not be able to prevent much about their condition, but they can work toward preventing flare-ups. This can be done through a proper skincare routine. Maintaining a routine like this can help reduce the number of flare-ups or their intensity when they arrive. 

Ringworm vs. Eczema

Ringworm and eczema can look similar to the untrained eye, but with a little knowledge, the differences become clear. If you are dealing with a round, well-defined rash, it is likely ringworm, while a more sporadic and less-defined rash is likely eczema. Once you’ve made this identification, you can start looking into treatment options with your doctor. 

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