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If you have a rash that suddenly occurs, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine what’s causing it. Shingles and conditions that can be mistaken for it have very different causes and, thus, require very different treatments.

If you suspect that you might have shingles, seek medical attention right away, as prompt treatment can reduce your risk of painful complications like postherpetic neuralgia, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of the condition include dry or cracked, scaly skin with red patches or plaques on the back of the knees or the inside of the elbows.

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Eczema is a chronic (long-term) skin condition that often starts during early childhood, or even during infancy. It can manifest at any time during a person’s lifetime, however.

This articles covers the symptoms of shingles and other common rashes.

Ringworm is a skin infection that, despite its name, is caused by a fungus, whereas the shingles rash is caused by a virus, according to the CDC. Ringworm can cause a red, itchy, circular rash on your skin. It may also cause scaly, cracked skin and hair loss. The rash can appear on any part of your body, and it spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact or contact with an item contaminated with the fungus, like dirty clothes or a shower floor. Some forms of ringworm can be treated with over-the-counter medication, while others must be treated with prescription antifungal medication.

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Eczema is an inflammation of the skin associated with different underlying genetic and environmental factors. Food allergies, asthma, and allergic rhinitis are often linked with eczema.

The main symptoms of shingles include:

Contact dermatitis can also cause a rash, blisters, itching, and burning, per the ACAAI. It occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or an allergen, such as soaps, laundry detergents, shampoos, metals, medications, and more. Allergens like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac can cause red, itchy rashes that may include blisters. Treatment can offer relief and aid healing.

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Skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, or an allergic rash can be mistaken for shingles by some, but rarely by health professionals who know what to look for. While red and itchy like other rashes, the shingles rash is otherwise very distinct. Vesicles (fluid-filled sacs) are tingling and/or painful, and the rash has a very specific distribution on one side of the body that sets it apart.

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that is easy to confuse with the shingles rash. As with the shingles virus, psoriasis forms red patches on the skin, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. One type of psoriasis — pustular — can lead to the development of blisters. Areas of skin affected by psoriasis often develop into silvery scales on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. Treatment can help control the condition.

To differentiate eczema from shingles, it’s helpful to know that shingles may have fluid leakage and there are no plaques involved in a shingles breakout.

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