Scabies vs. Eczema

Scabies vs. Eczema: What’s the Difference?

Understanding Your Skin

It's the big debate between scabies vs. eczema. While they may look similar, they are quite different. Yet, if you’re looking at your skin, wondering, “Is it scabies or eczema,” this article will help clarify everything for you.

It can be ultra-worrisome when you see rashes that look like scabies on your skin. After all, scabies is a highly contagious condition. Yet, eczema is not. So, let’s examine these differences a little closer. Here’s what you should know about scabies vs. eczema.

Eczema vs. Scabies: Symptoms, Treatments and Diagnosis

Yes, these two rashes look quite similar. But again, there are a few things different between scabies and eczema. So, let’s look at these two conditions separately so you can understand these differences better.

What is Scabies?

Scabies is a mite infestation in the skin, producing pimple-like rashes. After contact with these mites (which lay eggs under the skin), it can take up to six weeks for these symptoms to appear. Additionally, to get scabies, you have to come into close contact with another person with scabies or via items used by an infected person.

Symptoms of scabies include:

  • Itchy and pimple-y rash.
  • Small tiny paths within the skin.
  • Gray lines on the skin.
  • Crusting on the skin.

Most people with scabies have 15-20 mites living beneath their skin.

What is Eczema?

Eczema, on the other hand, is a chronic skin condition marked by inflamed and red skin. It’s also not contagious by any means. Eczema rashes can appear without warning, commonly on the wrists, neck, inner elbow, feet and hands.

There are also many types of eczema, including atopic eczema (which usually has a genetic component) and contact dermatitis (often caused by touching irritants such as chemicals). Further causes of eczema flare-ups included stress, allergies and certain skin products.

The eczema rash typically manifests as patches, sometimes red with white blisters. When the blisters break, they may produce a clear liquid. This rash also appears as dry, flaky or scaly, often depending on the cause or the person.

Scabies vs. Eczema Treatments

Your doctor will diagnose scabies or eczema via examination of the rash and by inquiring about the onset of symptoms. With scabies, treatment will be immediate to prevent passing it along to other people.

Treating Scabies

Your doctor will likely suggest permethrin cream as a treatment for your scabies. This cream is applied to the skin and targets the mites living within your skin. Following your doctor’s advice is important since re-infestation can easily happen.

Other types of scabies treatment may include:

  • Lindane lotion.
  • Sulfur ointment.
  • Benzyl benzoate lotion.
  • Crotamiton cream.

Additionally, your doctor may recommend treatments to help combat symptoms, such as steroid creams, antihistamines or pramoxine lotion. These will help lessen any discomfort that you may be experiencing with this condition.

Treating Eczema

Unfortunately, eczema doesn’t have a cure. Most people tend to go through waves of flare-ups and remission. Thus, usually, treatment revolves around managing this condition. This may mean using corticosteroids, light therapy, crisaborole ointment or tacrolimus ointment.

Furthermore, treatment is likely to involve managing any triggers. For instance, you may need to eliminate the use of certain skin products or learn to manage your stress in more healthy ways.


While prevention of eczema isn’t entirely possible, depending on the causes and severity, preventing scabies is doable. For example, if you know someone with scabies, it’s important to avoid close contact with them and avoid sharing items (including towels and bedding!).

With scabies, getting treatment as soon as possible is critical to prevent infecting others.

Still Not Sure?

If you aren’t sure whether you have scabies or eczema, visit your doctor. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Again, your doctor will observe your rash and ask questions about other symptoms to determine a proper diagnosis. In the meantime, it may be best to avoid contact with others until you are sure it isn’t scabies.

Either way, scabies will require a visit to your doctor to ensure you receive proper treatment. Lastly, if it is eczema, you will walk away from your doctor’s appointment with a better understanding of your condition and potentially a better understanding of how to manage it and prevent triggers in the future.

When in doubt, seek out help! Not knowing whether your rash is scabies vs. eczema can be scary. Yet, remain calm and simply take the proper precautions until you visit your doctor. Luckily, both conditions have various ways to address them and alleviate discomfort!

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