Eczema and scabies can look similar but they are two different skin conditions.

The most important difference between them is that scabies is highly contagious. It can be spread very easily through skin-to-skin contact.

There are many other differences between scabies and eczema. Read on to learn more about those differences.

Scabies and eczema may have a similar appearance, but their causes are very different. Scabies is caused by a mite infestation, while eczema is a skin irritation.

Scabies causes

Scabies is caused by an infestation of a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The scabies mite lives and lays eggs within the first layer of skin.

Symptoms can take up to six weeks to make an appearance. During that time, the mites are living, multiplying, and spreading, possibly to other people.

Generally, to become infected, you must be in contact — for longer than a brief moment — with a person who has scabies.

Scabies can also be spread indirectly by contact with items that have been used by an infected person, which would be the case if sharing a bed or a piece of clothing, for example.

Eczema causes

Eczema can’t be passed from person to person. Doctors are unsure about the exact cause of eczema, but it may be caused by:

If you have a red patch of itchy skin, it could be eczema or scabies. A doctor can diagnose which it is by scraping the skin for a sample to test.

Scabies symptoms

The most prevalent symptom of scabies is an intensely itchy rash. The rash typically has small, pimple-like bumps within it.

Sometimes, you can see what look like tiny paths in your skin. This is where the female mites are burrowing. These paths can be skin colored or gray lines.

Eczema symptoms

Eczema commonly occurs in flare-ups, meaning that sometimes it’s in full force while other times, it may not be present.

Eczema typically appears in patches and may appear red with blisters on it. These blisters usually break easily and seep clear liquid.

The break-outs are more likely to appear on the elbows, backs of the knees, or other areas of the arms and legs. The rash may itch, and the skin may appear dry and scaly or flaky.

The treatments for eczema and scabies are quite different.

Treatment for scabies should start immediately after diagnosis to avoid the high probability of passing scabies to other people.

Scabies treatments

Scabies must be diagnosed by a doctor and treated with prescription medication called a scabicide. If you’re diagnosed with scabies, commit to following the treatment directions completely, as reinfestation is highly possible.

Eczema treatments

Eczema is a chronic condition of the skin. Treatment is focused on managing the symptoms. Many treatments can be bought over the counter. Popular treatments include:

Implement a good skin care regimen to help combat symptoms. Be sure to consult a doctor if your eczema is affecting your daily life.

If you think you or a loved one may be infected with scabies, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible to begin treatment. The sooner the treatment starts, the less likely you or your loved one are to pass the scabies along.

If the affected area of your skin is only slightly itchy and appears dry or cracked, you may have eczema.

If the patch doesn’t improve or go away over time, or with the application of moisturizing products, you should consult a dermatologist for the best course of treatment.