Psoriasis and Athlete’s foot are two very different conditions.

Psoriasis is a genetic autoimmune disease. It causes faster-than-normal growth of skin cells. This growth causes skin cells to build up on the surface of your skin rather than falling off naturally. These extra skin cells develop into scales, or thick, white-silver patches that are often dry, itchy, and painful.

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus. It develops when fungal cells that are normally present on the skin begin to multiply and grow too quickly. Athlete’s foot commonly develops in body areas that are prone to moisture, such as between the toes.

Symptoms of psoriasis and athlete’s foot

Psoriasis and athlete’s foot have some symptoms in common, but they also have some important differences.

Symptoms of Psoriasis Symptoms of Athlete’s foot
– red patches of skin often covered
by whitish-silvery scales
– a red, scaly rash with peeling skin
– itching and burning – itching and burning on and around

the rash

– pain on or around the scales – small blisters or ulcers
– dry, cracked skin that may start to bleed – chronic dryness
– soreness – scaling on the heel that extends up

the sides

– swollen, painful joints
– pitted or thickened nails

Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, it is not contagious. Psoriasis patches can be small and cover just a few dots of skin, or they can be large and cover large areas of your body. Most people with psoriasis experience flares. That means the disease is active for several days or weeks, and then it disappears or becomes less active.

Because athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus, it is contagious. You can catch athlete’s foot by coming into contact with infected surfaces, such as clothing, shoes, and gym floors. You can spread athlete’s foot to your hands by scratching or picking at infected areas. Athlete’s foot can affect one foot or both.

Tips for identifying and distinguishing

These points may help you distinguish between psoriasis and athlete’s foot.

Affected body areas

Is your foot the only part of your body affected? If so, you likely have athlete’s foot. If you notice the patches are developing on your elbow, knee, back, or other areas, it’s more likely to be psoriasis.

The fungus that causes athlete’s foot can spread to different parts of your body, so this isn’t a foolproof method for distinguishing between the two.

Response to antifungal treatment

You can buy over-the-counter antifungal creams and ointments (Lotrimin, Lamisil, and others) at your pharmacy without a prescription. Apply this medication to the affected areas. If the rashes begin to disappear, you likely have a fungal infection, or athlete’s foot. If the rashes don’t disappear, you may be dealing with psoriasis or something else.

Responses to no treatment

Psoriasis goes in cycles of activity. It may be active and cause symptoms for a few days or weeks, and then the symptoms may disappear. Athlete’s foot will rarely go away without treatment.

Diagnosis upon testing

The only way to be certain if your symptoms are caused by athlete’s foot or psoriasis, or something else entirely, is to have a skin test.

Psoriasis treatment

Psoriasis treatments fall into three general categories:

  • topical treatments
  • light therapy
  • systemic medications

Topical treatments include medicated creams and ointments. For mild cases of psoriasis, a topical treatment may be able to clear up the affected area.

Athlete’s foot treatment

Athlete’s foot, like most fungal infections, can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription antifungal creams. Unfortunately, if it’s not properly treated, it may return.

When to see your doctor

If you try over-the-counter treatments for your skin problem and they’re not effective, it’s time to call your doctor. A quick inspection of the infected area and a simple lab test should help your doctor give you the diagnosis and treatment you need.

If your diagnosis ends up being athlete’s foot, your treatment will likely be fast and easy. However, if you have psoriasis, your treatment will be more involved. Work with your doctor to create a treatment plan that will manage your symptoms.

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