How to distinguish dermatitis from mycosis?

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Often when our skin has a problem, we don’t know how to identify it, which increases our worry and makes us wonder what treatment to use.

Dermatitis and fungus are particularly difficult to tell apart, as they are often red and itchy and look very similar to the naked eye.

Thus, in this article we will tell you about the two conditions, and we will give you some key points to understand how to distinguish dermatitis from fungal infection.

What is dermatitis?

Simply put, dermatitis is skin irritation that can result from a variety of factors, such as contact with an allergen, very dry skin, or varicose veins, and diaper rash is a common cause of dermatitis in children.

Going a little further, distinguishing dermatitis from other diseases can be complicated because we are faced with the problem that there are many different types. Some of the most common are atopic dermatitis or eczema, contact dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Each of these types of dermatitis has specific characteristics, which sometimes makes it difficult for the patient to diagnose and distinguish them.


Knowing the symptoms of dermatitis is essential to distinguish it from other diseases. It usually presents with the following symptoms:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Itching in the affected area
  • Dry skin
  • Swelling of the dermis whose color varies according to skin tone
  • Different types of spots, which may look red, whitish, or scaly
  • Thickening of the skin and appearance of scabs
  • Desquamation or dandruff in some cases
  • Occasional blisters
  • Lumps in the hair follicles.

However, it should be kept in mind that this list is very general in nature, as each type of dermatitis has its own symptoms that distinguish it from others.

For this reason, during the visit, the doctor analyzes both the appearance and the affected area to distinguish the type and provide a diagnosis. Additionally, he may use a patch test or perform a biopsy.

What is mycosis?

Mycosis is an infection by fungi, microscopic organisms that live like parasites in our body and sometimes cause tissue diseases and the symptoms that characterize this type of infection.

Usually, when we talk about mycosis, we refer to superficial mycosis that appears on the skin and is limited to the cutaneous or subcutaneous level, which must be distinguished from deep mycosis, which has a systemic character and affects the lungs or other organs.

Superficial yeast infections can affect anyone, especially when there are risk factors such as high humidity, wearing tight clothing or immunosuppressive treatments.

Also, as with dermatitis, there are several types of fungal infections, which you have probably heard of: candidiasis, athlete’s foot, various types of ringworm and onychomycosis (nail fungus).


Symptoms of yeast infection vary depending on the type of fungus involved, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Pigmentation changes, i.e. the affected area may darken or lighten
  • Appearance of scales on the body
  • Itching
  • Inflammation and irritation of the skin, sometimes accompanied by burning
  • If the scalp is affected, hairless patches (alopecia) may be noted
  • In the nails, loss and deformation of the cuticle occurs, and if the disease progresses, the nail is destroyed
  • Intense itching and discharge from the genitals often occurs.

The analysis of more specific symptoms is essential to distinguish one type of mycosis from another, so it is important to consult a dermatologist for a more precise classification.

How to distinguish dermatitis from mycosis?

One of the main differences between the two diseases is their origin: while dermatitis is a non-contagious condition resulting from various internal and external factors, mycosis has a specific cause, namely a fungus that can be transmitted from a person to another or through an infected person. surface.

However, once the disease has developed, it is very difficult to distinguish mycosis from dermatitis, as they have common symptoms such as irritation, pimples and itching.

So, to distinguish between the two diseases, we need to look carefully at some key factors:

  • Appearance of plates: in cases of dermatophytic mycosis, the plaques have a characteristic arcuate appearance.
  • Itching: the itching is generally less intense in fungal infections than in dermatitis.
  • Treatment: Corticosteroid creams are the main drugs prescribed for dermatitis, if these do not work the possibility of yeast infection should be considered.

While it is difficult to distinguish between dermatitis and fungal infection, with some subtypes the differences are clearer, as in the case of seborrheic dermatitis and ringworm of the scalp, a type of fungal infection that affects scalp.

How to Differentiate Seborrheic Dermatitis from Ringworm of the Scalp

The common aspect of both diseases is that they usually appear on the scalp, so it is important to distinguish between them in order to treat them appropriately.

On the one hand, seborrheic dermatitis manifests itself in the form of dandruff or peeling, yellow or whitish fatty patches, redness of the skin and itching.

In the case of tinea capitis, on the other hand, there is no dandruff and instead plaques are formed that stand out for their alopecicity, because the fungus has cut the hair, and there is also an inflammatory variant that causes patches of skin to protrude, generate pustules and ooze fluid when pressed.

REMARK: Seborrheic dermatitis can also occur on other oily areas of the body, such as the face.

Key points

We hope that our short article has helped you clarify your ideas about how to distinguish dermatitis from mycosis. Before saying goodbye, here is a brief summary of the main differences between the two diseases.

  • Dermatitis has various triggers, while mycosis is caused by a fungus.
  • Mycosis is contagious, unlike dermatitis.
  • Treatments with corticosteroids are generally effective in dermatitis, but not in fungal infections.

Finally, if you are still unsure what condition affects your skin, we recommend that you consult a specialist for advice on diagnosis and treatment.

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