Can Eczema Be Mistaken For Ringworm?

A skin condition that causes rashes alongside dry and highly sensitive skin is known as eczema. However, a particular kind of eczema - nummular eczema - is sometimes mistaken to be ringworm infection.

Ringworm, quite like nummular eczema (also referred to as dermatitis), is a skin condition that causes itchiness, redness and other signs. As both of these appear as circular rashes many people might get confused between nummular eczema and ringworm. However, the triggers behind eczema are quite different from that of ringworm.

Nummular eczema vs. Ringworm: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

Nummular eczema is typically seen in the form of coin-shaped patches on the skin, whereas ringworm is a fungal infection that appears as ring-shaped patches. Ringworm would usually have a red center. They may appear flat or slightly raised. The ringworm sores, during the initial stages, appear to be moist. The rash keeps increasing in size over time. Spider bites can also sometimes look like ringworm. Nummular eczema is much more severe than ringworm and tends to have a kind of bull's eye shaped rash.

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Understanding Nummular Eczema

This is also known as discoid eczema. People who have this condition have reddish or brownish patches on their skin that are oval in shape.

The spots can appear on the hands, torso, legs or arms. They can appear has large patches or in clusters. They can be as small as 1 inch and sometimes larger patches can be around 4 inches in size.

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What Causes Nummular Eczema?

Research says that nummular eczema mostly affects men, especially between the age ranges of 55 to 65 years. Women usually experience this condition between the ages of 13 to 25 years. This condition is not hereditary in nature and not necessarily present in other family members.

Although doctors do not exactly know what causes nummular eczema, the following are some of the primary triggers:

• Cold weather that causes the skin to dry out.
• Poor flow of blood to the legs.
• Use of topical medicated creams such as interferon and isotretinoin.
• Presence of history of atopic eczema or other allergic reactions.
• Skin injuries such as insect bites, scrapes or burns.

Some foods that can cause allergies and conditions such as nummular eczema are:

• Fish
• Nuts
• Gluten
• Shellfish
• Soy products
• Cow's milk
• Egg
• Citrus fruits
• Tomatoes
• Spices such as cinnamon, cloves, vanilla

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What Are The Symptoms?

The symptoms of nummular eczema are:

• Burning and itching of the skin, usually which worsens at night
• Open spots that could crust over
• Excessive skin dryness

If the spots due to nummular eczema open up, then there is a high chance of bacterial infection. Infected nummular eczema would cause redness, swelling, fever and a foul-smelling discharge.

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How Is It Diagnosed?

Examining the skin along with the signs and symptoms are enough for a doctor to reach a conclusion about whether the skin condition is nummular eczema or not. You might be asked questions such as when the rash first appeared, things that make the rash worse and if you have already tried any treatment to cure the condition.

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What Are The Treatment Options?

Your doctor might prescribe oral or topical corticosteroids to treat the skin ailment.

The possible treatment options are:

• Phototherapy - exposing the skin to ultraviolet light
• Topical calcineurin inhibitors (tacrolimus/pimecrolimus)
• Coal tar cream

Emollients are moisturizers that can prevent the skin from drying up.

Antihistamines are sometimes prescribed in case the itching is so bad that it does not even allow you to sleep.

In case nummular eczema has got infected, you might need to take oral or topical antibiotics.

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Tips For Managing Nummular Eczema

People with nummular eczema should ensure that they always keep their skin hydrated and clean. The symptoms can be relieved by doing the following:

• Use gentle soaps that would not dry out your skin. You can even skip the application of soap, if required.
• Use fragrance-free moisturizer to prevent skin damage. Do not use creams loaded with chemicals on the affected areas. This might worsen the skin condition.
• Stay in cool and moist rooms. Use a humidifier, if possible. This would ensure that your skin does not dry out.
• Wear cotton clothes to prevent skin irritation.
• Avoid woollen clothes as this can turn into a skin irritant.

Many people vouch for the use of aloe vera gel to ease the symptoms associated with nummular eczema. Aloe vera seems to work wonderfully on broken, dry and irritated skin. It reduces the risk of affected skin being vulnerable to infections.

If you receive proper treatment, the symptoms associated with nummular eczema are most likely to lessen within a period of one year. However, being a chronic condition, nummular eczema might not resolve completely ever. Some lesions might get cured while others might keep coming back.

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    Read more about: eczema
    Story first published: Wednesday, October 10, 2018, 18:30 [IST]
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