Difference Between Eczema and Ringworm

Ringworm and eczema are two common skin conditions that can be easily confused. These two conditions have quite different pathologies while there are some instances where these two coexist. To the untrained eye, skin lesions resulting from these two conditions may look the same. However, knowing the facts makes differentiation quite effortless and rewarding because both conditions respond dramatically to appropriate treatment.


Ringworm is the term used to refer to a set of infections caused by the fungus dermatophyte. The proper medical term is dermatophytosis. According to the site of the infection the name of the disease varies. Teania is the first name of all the dermatophyte infections. If the infection is on the scalp, it is called Teania capitis. If the infection is on skin creases, the name is Teania cruris. Infection on legs is Teania pedis. Infection on hands is Teania manuum. Infection on the face is called Teania faciei. Infection on fingers is called Teania unguum. Infection elsewhere on the body is called Teania corporis.

The characteristic lesion has an irregular margin. The lesion looks like a raised ring surrounded by red skin. The center of the ring is healthy. The ring spreads outwards with time. The lesion is very itchy. These lesions are very commonly seen in moist areas. The diagnosis of ringworm is clinical. Prevention is very important. Avoiding touching pets with bald spots that may carry the fungus, washing clothes in hot water and anti-fungal solutions after possible exposure, and avoiding clothes sharing are a few important preventive strategies.

Miconazole, ketoconazole, and itraconazole are a few antifungal drugs effective against ringworm infections. Both oral and topical dosage forms are available. Using both oral and topical therapy gives best results.


Eczema is a skin lesion which is an allergic reaction to an irritant agent touching the skin. It is also known as dermatitis. Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin. In a clinical sense, eczema denotes a chronic course while dermatitis denotes an acute course. However, this is a misnomer. Eczema can be short lasting (acute) or long lasting (chronic). Dermatitis is due to hypersensitivity to foreign agents.

There are four types of hypersensitivity. Type 1 is the pathogenesis of acute dermatitis while type 4 hypersensitivity is the pathogenesis of chronic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is and acute condition and is due to allergic conditions. Contact dermatitis is a chronic dermatitis, and there are two types; irritant and allergic contact dermatitis. Xerotic dermatitis is dry skin. Seborrhoeic  dermatitis is called cradle cap and occurs in childhood mostly. Discoid dermatitis, venous dermatitis, and dermatitis herpetiformis are a few rarer examples for skin inflammation. Damaged skin may get infected secondarily. Topical steroids, oral steroids, and antihistamines are very effective against eczema.

What is the difference between Ringworm and Eczema?

• Ringworm is an infection while eczema is not.

• Ringworm follows an acute or sub-acute course while eczema may be acute or chronic.

• Ringworm thrives on moist skin while not all types of eczema occur on moist skin.

• Steroids may worsen ringworm infection while eczema responds dramatically to topical steroid therapy.