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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I tell eczema and ringworm apart?

    Related Topics
    My son has a circular patch of dry skin on the underside of his elbow. How can I tell what it is?
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    A/Prof John Su

    Dermatologist (Skin Specialist), Paediatrician

    Paediatric dermatologist, Senior lecturer at University of Melbourne and Monash University View Profile

    It can be very difficult to tell eczema apart from tinea, especially if medications or creams have already been applied. Sometimes you can get telltale signs. For example, scaling at the edges, expansion of the lesion and even rings of scales, but that is not so common. Both conditions can be itchy. If you have other signs of tinea between the toes or groin, that may make it a bit more likely that it is tinea. If it’s just one circular patch that would make it less likely to be tinea.

    Animal and other causes of tinea are not that uncommon in children. If you've just recently bought a new kitten and you start getting scaly, itchy patches and parts on the scalp and skin that may be related. If you've got a strong history of eczema but no other risk factors for tinea, then that may swing you more toward eczema.

    Eczema, tinea and psoriasis can often be confused even among health professionals, so it's not such a straightforward question to answer without seeing the rash.

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