Scabies vs Eczema: The Core Differences

Scabies vs eczema are interesting competitors with similar yet different symptoms. They both cause rashes and itching, which is very confusing and can make you go through endless treatment options. Distinguishing them is key to successful recovery. So, keep reading to learn more about these skin diseases and their healing methods.

Scabies vs Eczema

What is Scabies?

Scabies is a skin disease caused by an infestation of microscopic mites. The pathogen got its name from the Greek, meaning to gnaw meat. The fecundity of the mite reaches its maximum in the cool season since the cold contributes to the best survival. People are less sweating during this time. As a result, the skin loses its protective antimicrobial peptides and falls at risk of mites invasion.

Scabies tends to present with intense night itching, rashes with red spots, and burrows (small tunnels in the skin through which mites pass). Itching and rashes can appear anywhere, but the most common areas include the inner side of the wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, penis, buttocks, and between fingers. There are three types of mite infestations: typical scabies, nodular scabies, and Norwegian scabies.

Types of Scabies

  • Typical Scabies is the most common type of scabies, manifesting as itchy rashes that can appear anywhere except the scalp or face. The rashes represent small erythematous papules accumulated together.
  • Nodular Scabies represents a few red, pink, or brown itchy nodules around genitals, armpits, or groin. Sometimes they are the only diagnostic sign of scabies.
  • Norwegian Scabies is a more severe type of scabies that usually develops in people with weakened immunity. It causes thick crusts due to a massive amount of mites.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory skin disease accompanied by itching, redness, and rashes in the form of small blisters with liquid. The reason why people get this condition isn’t clear, but experts think it is caused by genetic factors and a combination of environmental triggers like irritants, allergens, and stress. There are seven different types of eczema, such as atopic dermatitis, discoid eczema, neurodermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, contact dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Types of Eczema

  • Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic type of eczema that usually develops at young ages and gets milder by adulthood. Up to 85% of all skin rashes in infants are atopic dermatitis. The disease has a pronounced allergic character and connects with other manifestations of immune dysfunction.
  • Discoid Eczema causes disc-shaped patches to form on any part of the body. It is also accompanied by itchiness and inflamed skin. Sometimes the center of the disc is clear, surrounded by a ring of red skin.
  • Neurodermatitis is a chronic skin disease that can be both neurogenic and allergic. It usually progresses gradually. First, the skin starts itching, and then, you will notice thick, scaly patches.
  • Dyshidrotic Eczema represents an itchy rash in the form of small fluid-filled blisters located on the feet and hands. The affected area may be very sore, making it difficult to use your hands and walk.
  • Contact Dermatitis occurs after multiple interactions with certain substances and manifests as red itchy skin with small red bumps. The rash usually starts developing at the place of contact with irritants and allergens and then can spread throughout the body.
  • Stasis Dermatitis is skin inflammation of the legs occurring in people with chronic venous insufficiency. Its symptoms include itching, flaking, and hyperpigmentation.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects those areas of the body with the sebaceous glands. It causes itching, dandruff, and the formation of yellowish oily scales.

Scabies vs Eczema

Etiology (Causes)

  • Scabies is only caused by the parasitic mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites burrow into the top layer of the skin and live there and lay eggs for months if left untreated.
  • Eczema is mainly caused by irritants (harsh soaps, aggressive detergents, heavy shampoos), environmental factors (bad weather, excessive humidity or dryness), and allergens (house dust, pet fur, molds).

Contagiousness

  • Scabies is very contagious and can spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies. Keep in mind it doesn’t transmit with a light touch or even a hug.
  • Ezema isn’t contagious and can’t be passed from person to person. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • Scabies usually appears two to five weeks after direct contact with an infected person. The main symptom includes intense night itching and a rash with pimple-like bumps that often form lines and look like small tunnels. Common areas for scabies are the wrist, elbow, armpit, nipple, waist, penis, buttocks, and between fingers. The mites spread quickly because the infected person let them occupy new territory by constantly scratching different body parts. If scabies is left untreated, the condition can get worse and lead to infection.
  • Like scabies, eczema is associated with itching. However, it can appear anytime (except allergic contact dermatitis). Another distinctive sign includes an inflamed rash that looks like an accumulation of small blisters with liquid. The rash develops rapidly and can spread throughout the body. The more you scratch, the more it gets itchy.

Diagnosis

  • The most simple way to diagnose scabies is to stain the affected skin with iodine tincture and check if there are tunnel-like burrows. Another method includes using a digital dermatoscope with a magnification of 600 times, which allows you to detect scabies in almost all cases.
  • To diagnose eczema, your healthcare provider uses a combination of methods. The specialist accesses the affected skin, gathers a detailed history of your recent contact with potential irritants or allergens, takes a blood sample, and probably conducts a histological examination of tissues.

Treatments

  • The standard scabies treatment includes mites killing and reinfection prevention. The healthcare provider administers products containing sulfur to destroy the pathogen. The medication should be applied to the whole body after a hot bath or shower. You should also make sure to leave the medication under your nails to reduce the accumulation of mite eggs due to scratching. After the mites are completely eliminated, the patient may still experience itching and rash for several more weeks. To alleviate these symptoms, the specialist prescribes corticosteroids and antihistamines.
  • The primary goal in healing eczema is identifying and minimizing provoking factors. Depending on the type of eczema, the healthcare provider makes treatment recommendations. Generally, the specialist prescribes antihistamines and glucocorticosteroids in combination with topical agents (anti-itching and anti-irritation creams) and repairing balm to restore damaged moisture barrier
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