If you’re dealing with red, itchy spots on your skin, you may be wondering if you have psoriasis or a fungal infection.

Psoriasis and fungal infections may resemble one another, but they’re very different conditions. Keep reading to learn more about their symptoms, risk factors, causes, and treatments.

Tips for identification

Psoriasis and fungal infections have similar symptoms. It’s not always easy to figure out what you’re looking at with one glance.

What’s the best way to distinguish between psoriasis and a fungal infection? Look closely at the red patches on your skin.

If there is a silvery look to them, you might have psoriasis. If they look like circles or rings, it’s more likely you have a fungal infection.

Pictures of psoriasis and fungal infections

Symptoms of psoriasis

Common symptoms of psoriasis include:

  • plaque (raised, reddish skin patches)
  • a silvery, white covering on the patches, called scales
  • itchy, cracked skin that might bleed

Psoriasis tends to be pink or red with silvery-white scales on those with light or fair skin tones. On medium skin tones, it can appear salmon-colored with silvery-white scales. On darker skin tones, psoriasis could look violet with gray scales. It can also appear dark brown.

While psoriasis plaques can appear anywhere on your body, they’re commonly found on the:

  • scalp
  • elbows
  • knees
  • lower back

Symptoms of fungal infections

The symptoms of a fungal infection are similar to those of psoriasis in many ways. Fungal infections can also create raised, red patches of skin. These patches may also itch, which can vary in severity.

A clear sign of a fungal infection is if it continues to grow without treatment. This is especially true for fungal infections on the feet and scalp.

Risk factors for psoriasis

Psoriasis is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. It affects 125 million people worldwide, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF).

While doctors have yet to identify the exact cause of psoriasis, genetics play a role. Other risk factors include:

Causes of fungal infection

Different types of fungi can cause fungal infections.

Dermatophytes are a common type of fungal group. You may know one of the infections they cause by its common name, ringworm. Despite the name, ringworm is caused by a fungus, not a worm.

Fungal infections are usually superficial and can affect your hair, skin, nails, and any other part of your body that came into contact with the fungus. They’re very contagious and can be caused by direct contact with any of the following:

  • another person who has a fungal infection
  • public pools or bathrooms
  • an animal that has a fungal infection
  • unwashed floors, clothes, or children’s toys

Since fungus spreads from contact, people who walk around barefoot are more likely to pick up a fungal infection on their feet.

Treatments for psoriasis

Your treatment will vary depending on whether you have psoriasis or a fungal infection. You’ll want to contact a doctor so that you can correctly identify the cause of your skin rash.

There’s currently no cure for psoriasis, but there are many treatments available.

Your doctor may prescribe one of the following:

Treatments for fungal infections

Fungal infections generally clear up pretty easily with topical antifungal creams and oral tablets. Some of these are available over the counter.

Your doctor may suggest different hygiene or cleaning habits if fungal infections are a recurring problem.

When to contact a doctor

Contact a doctor if your itching is still undiagnosed, especially if it’s getting worse. You should also contact a doctor for a stronger prescription if you’ve been using a topical, over-the-counter (OTC) treatment and it’s not working.

Because these conditions look so similar, your doctor may have trouble figuring out the cause of your condition by just looking at it. If this happens, you may need to have a biopsy. Finding a clear cause will help you get the treatment you need sooner.