Is It Inverse Psoriasis or Intertrigo? Understanding the Symptoms

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on October 30, 2017Written by Ann Pietrangelo on November 9, 2015

Inverse psoriasis vs. intertrigo

Inverse psoriasis and intertrigo are skin conditions that can cause discomfort. Although they look similar and often show up in the same places, the two conditions have different causes and treatments.

Read on to learn the similarities and differences between these two skin conditions.

Symptoms of inverse psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to grow at an increased rate. This growth can lead to a buildup of red, itchy patches and plaques on the skin.

Inverse psoriasis usually doesn’t appear as scaly as other forms of psoriasis. You may notice patches of red, inflamed skin. These areas can become more irritated if you perspire or if there is skin-on-skin rubbing.

Inverse psoriasis is distinguished by its appearance in the folds of your skin. These patches typically form:

  • under the breasts
  • in the armpits
  • between the crease of the buttocks
  • around the genitals
  • on any other dark, moist fold of skin

Symptoms of intertrigo

Intertrigo is a rash caused by fungus, bacteria, or yeast. Intertrigo is similar to inverse psoriasis, and also appears in the folds of skin around the:

  • breasts
  • armpits
  • groin
  • toes
  • buttocks
  • neck

As the rash progresses, your skin may become more inflamed. Your skin may also:

  • crack
  • bleed
  • ooze
  • have a foul odor

Is it inverse psoriasis or intertrigo?

At first glance, inverse psoriasis can easily be mistaken for intertrigo. You’re more likely to have inverse psoriasis if you have a family history of psoriasis or if you have already been diagnosed with a type of psoriasis.

Inverse psoriasis generally responds favorably to topical medicines. If you’ve previously had a rash that didn’t get better with antifungal treatment, your doctor may suspect inverse psoriasis.

If your rash is accompanied by an unpleasant odor, you’re more likely to have intertrigo. This rash will respond better to antifungal treatments.

What are the risk factors for inverse psoriasis?

Psoriasis isn’t contagious. The exact cause of it isn’t clear, but it’s likely a combination of genetics and a triggering event.

You’re more likely to develop psoriasis if you have a family history of the disease. Inverse psoriasis is more common in people who are obese or who have deep skin folds. People with a weakened immune system are also at a greater risk of developing the skin condition.

What are the risk factors for intertrigo?

Skin rubbing on skin is the main cause of intertrigo, and anyone can develop it. The condition isn’t contagious.

Your risk of intertrigo may increase if:

  • you have diabetes
  • you’re overweight
  • you’re regularly exposed to high heat and humidity
  • you have artificial limbs, braces, or splints that rub on your skin
  • you’re malnourished
  • you have poor hygiene
  • you’re incontinent

Treatment for inverse psoriasis and intertrigo

For either condition, your doctor may tell you to keep the area dry and clean, minimize friction, and expose your skin to air when possible. To prevent irritation, wear loose-fitting, absorbent clothes. That will make it easier for your skin to breathe.

Inverse psoriasis treatment

Inverse psoriasis can be difficult to treat. Your doctor may prescribe topical ointments or steroids. In moderate to severe cases, ultraviolet B (UVB) light therapy or biologic medications may be necessary.

Intertrigo treatment

Intertrigo may be treated with barrier creams or powders to absorb moisture. If that doesn’t help, prescription strength topical creams should take care of it. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic or antifungal treatments. Other treatments may be necessary if your skin becomes infected.

When to see your doctor

It can be difficult to self-diagnose a skin rash. If you develop an unexplained rash that won’t go away or is getting worse, you should see your doctor. Early treatment may help clear it up before there is any physical discomfort or chance of infection.

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