Published on April 14, 2024

Is Psoriasis a Fungus?

Is It Psoriasis or a Fungal Infection?

Psoriasis affects around 7.5 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, but it is often confused with a fungal infection. Psoriasis and fungal infections often share similar symptoms, like redness and itching, making them difficult to tell apart. [1]

This article provides tips to help differentiate between psoriasis and fungal infections, along with information on risk factors, causes, and signs that warrant a visit to your doctor.

Is It Psoriasis or a Fungal Infection?

If you’re seeing red, itchy patches on your skin, determining whether it’s psoriasis or a fungal infection isn’t always straightforward. Look closely at the red patches: if they appear silvery, it’s likely psoriasis; if they resemble circles or rings, it’s more probable to be a fungal infection. [2]

What is Psoriasis?

A view of psoriasis on a knee

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder causing an accelerated life cycle of the skin. It results in the formation of itchy and scaly patches in parts of the body mostly affected—knees, elbows, trunk, and the scalp.

Normal skin cells develop and shed within a period of about four weeks. [3] In psoriasis, the skin cells are produced more rapidly than usual, and therefore do not have time to shed off normally, causing discomfort.

Is Psoriasis a Fungus?

Psoriasis is not caused by a fungus. It’s an autoimmune condition where the immune system triggers rapid skin cell growth, resulting in thick, red patches with silvery scales. 

Two photos of scalp psoriasis (left), and a closeup of ringworm (right). GettyImages/anand purohit (left), Wikimedia Commons/James Heilman, MD, CC BY-SA 3.0 (right)

What is a Fungal Infection?

A view of ringworm on a leg

Ringworm. Getty Images/phanasitti

Fungal infection, also known as mycosis or fungal disease, is a type of disease caused by numerous kinds of fungi, yeasts, and molds.

Fungi mostly infect the skin or the nails, but other possible areas include parts of the mouth, lungs, and throat, even reaching the urinary tract. [4]

Common fungal infections include athlete’s foot, ringworm, nail fungus (onychomycosis), and oral thrush (candidiasis).

Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis

  • Plaque: Raised, reddish skin patches
  • Silvery Scales: Thick, dry patches often have a white covering of scales.
  • Itchy, Cracked Skin: It may itch and crack, sometimes leading to bleeding.
  • Nail changes: Pitting, discoloration, or thickening of nails. [5]
  • Inflammation: Redness and swelling in affected areas
  • Koebner Phenomenon: New patches may develop at sites of skin trauma or injury

Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Infections

  • Redness
  • Itching and stinging in the affected area
  • Circular or ring-like rash
  • The skin may develop scales or flakiness.
  • Discoloration and blisters on the affected area [6]
  • Cracking or peeling of the skin
  • Small bumps, patches, or raised areas
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Nail Involvement

Psoriasis Risk Factors

While doctors haven’t pinpointed the exact cause of psoriasis, genetics are known to be a factor.

Other risk factors or factors that can aggravate psoriasis include:

  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Cold or dry air
  • Various environmental factors
  • Chronic or severe stress

Difference Between Psoriasis and Fungal Infection – An Overview

Aspect Psoriasis Fungal Infection
Cause Chronic autoimmune condition Caused by various types of fungi
Genetic Predisposition Common, tends to run in families Not typically associated with genetics
Triggers Stress, infections, injury to the skin, certain medications Often related to warm, moist environments, contact with fungi
Locations Scalp, elbows, knees, lower back, nails, can appear anywhere Warm, moist areas like feet, groin, scalp, nails
Contagious Not contagious Contagious, can spread from person to person or via surfaces
Symptoms Red, raised patches with silvery scales, may itch. Redness, itching, scaling, sometimes blisters or oozing, may have characteristic appearances (e.g., ringworm)
Treatment Topical treatments, phototherapy, systemic medications Antifungal medications (topical creams, oral medications, shampoos, nail lacquers)

What are the Causes of Psoriasis and Fungal Infections?

psoriasis vs ringworm

Knowing about psoriasis and fungal infections isn’t sufficient without understanding their causes. Let’s examine the causes of each condition separately.

Causes of Fungal Infections

Various fungi cause fungal infections, each leading to specific types of infections.

  • Dermatophytes, responsible for ringworm and athlete’s foot, infect the skin’s keratin layer.
  • Yeast infections, like those caused by Candida species, occur due to skin barrier disruption or environmental changes.
  • Different types of fungi can cause these fungal infections, and they’re often superficial, affecting the hair, skin, nails, or any area in contact with the fungus.

Fungal infections spread easily through contact, such as:

  • Direct contact with infected individuals
  • Contact with animals carrying fungal infections
  • Interaction with unwashed items like toys, floors, or clothes
  • Exposure to contaminated surfaces like public pools or bathrooms

Causes of Psoriasis

The cause of psoriasis isn’t entirely clear but likely involves genetics, environment, and immune system factors.

  • Genetics: Family history and genetic variations increase the risk. Specific genes, like HLA-Cw6, increase susceptibility. [7]
  • Immune system dysfunction: Autoimmune response attacks healthy skin cells. T cells release cytokines, causing inflammation.
  • Environmental triggers: Stress, infections, skin injury, smoking, and certain medications.
  • Rapid Keratinocyte Proliferation: Abnormal activation prompts quick skin cell growth.
  • Lifestyle factors: Obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol, poor diet.

Diagnosis of Psoriasis and Fungal Infections

Your dermatologist or doctor will base the diagnosis on what is seen but may need tests to be done in order to confirm the cause of the nail problem.

Is Psoriasis a Fungus?

Nail Psoriasis VS Fungus

Nail Psoriasis

  • Testing the nail through a biopsy or analyzing nail clippings can help confirm psoriasis. [8]
  • Your healthcare provider will also check for plaques or lesions on other parts of your body.
  • Sometimes, dermoscopy, a close dermatoscopic examination, may be used.

Nail Fungus

  • Scraping or clipping is taken for testing either to confirm nail fungus or to identify the organism causing the infection.
  • Lab tests of skin or nail particles can pinpoint the exact fungi causing the issue and guide treatment.

Psoriasis Treatments

The goal of treating psoriasis is to lessen inflammation, slow down skin cell growth, and ease symptoms. While there’s no cure yet, various treatments can help manage the condition.

Your doctor may recommend:

  • Topical creams such as coal tar extracts
  • Narrow band ultraviolet (UVB) light therapy [10]
  • Topical Retinoids
  • Topical Vitamin D analogues
  • Oral medications
  • Biologic injections
  • Topical Corticosteroids [9]

Treatments for Fungal Infections

Fungal infections often respond well to topical antifungal creams or oral tablets, some available over the counter. [11] If these infections persist, your doctor might recommend changes in hygiene habits.

Treatment focuses on eliminating the underlying fungus through:

  • Hygiene Adjustments
  • Topical and Oral Antifungals
  • Nail removal, if necessary
  • Antifungal Shampoos

When to See a Doctor

If your itching persists without diagnosis or worsens, it’s best to contact a doctor. Also, seek a stronger prescription if an over-the-counter treatment isn’t effective.

Since these conditions appear similar, your doctor may need more than a visual inspection to determine the cause. In such cases, a biopsy may be necessary to identify the underlying issue and facilitate appropriate treatment.


Differentiating between psoriasis and fungal infections can be difficult because their symptoms overlap. If you’re experiencing red, inflamed, and itchy skin and are unsure if it’s psoriasis or a fungal infection, seeking a professional opinion is crucial.

If you’re unsure whether you have psoriasis or a fungal infection, you can reach out to UVB Treat by filling out a simple form. Our professionals will assist you with your condition and recommend a personalized solution.

  1. American Academy of Dermatology Association. “Skin Conditions by the Numbers.”, 2019,
  2. Schaeffer, Juliann. “Psoriasis vs. Fungal Infection: Tips for Identification.” Healthline, 1 Feb. 2019, Accessed 6 Apr. 2024.
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Psoriasis – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 8 Oct. 2022,
  4. Johnson, Jon. “Fungal Infections: Symptoms, Types, and Treatment.”, 15 Nov. 2018,
  5. Zimlich, Rachael . “What’s the Difference between Nail Psoriasis and Nail Fungus?” Verywell Health,
  6. Mooney, Suzanne . “Psoriasis vs. Fungal Infections: Photos and Differences in Symptoms | MyPsoriasisTeam.”,  Accessed 6 Apr. 2024.
  7. Hecht, Marjorie. “Is Psoriasis Hereditary?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 6 July 2017,
  8. “What Changes Will I See If I Have Psoriasis in My Nails?” Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance (PAPAA),
  9. “What’s the Difference between Nail Psoriasis and Nail Fungus?” Verywell Health,
  10. “Phototherapy for Psoriasis.”,
  11. Gotte, Ana. “Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot.” Healthline, 17 Aug. 2017,


  • Unlike psoriasis, nail fungus doesn't cause pits in the nails. Instead, nails may change shape, becoming thin, thickened, or developing patches over time.
  • Psoriasis and fungal infections can resemble each other, but they can also coexist. An accurate diagnosis is crucial to determine if you're dealing with one or both conditions.
  • Psoriasis often affects fingers, while fungal infections typically target toenails, starting with one toe. If only one toenail is affected, it's likely a fungal infection or trauma-related, not psoriasis.
  • While it's tempting to self-diagnose psoriasis, it's best to consult a healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis rather than attempting self-treatment.
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