Distinguishing psoriasis and eczema can be challenging, and even medical professionals can sometimes misdiagnose one for the other. To ensure an accurate diagnosis, it’s essential to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.
This article offers insight into the differences between eczema and psoriasis, including their symptoms, appearance, triggers, and treatment.
Difference Between Eczema and Psoriasis
Eczema and psoriasis are two skin conditions that can look similar, confusing patients as to which condition, they are suffering from. Despite the similarities, both skin conditions are extremely different from each other. Here’s how you can spot the difference:
Both psoriasis and eczema can lead to rashes on your skin. These rashes might seem similar, but the two have several differences.
Several triggers can cause a show of eczema symptoms on your skin. Signs that tell the different types of eczema include:
- Contact Dermatitis: If you have contact dermatitis, your skin becomes extremely sensitive and easily irritated. Symptoms like itching, burning sensation, or blisters appear once exposed to substances or materials incompatible with your skin.
- Atopic Dermatitis: People with atopic dermatitis have dry and itchy skin. Symptoms of this eczema include red patches for lighter skin tones and grey or brown patches on darker skin.
- Stasis Dermatitis: In this condition, there’s a fluid build-up due to abnormal blood flow that causes oxygen’s inability to reach your skin. Due to this, you can see symptoms like thick skin patches, itching, open sores on the lower legs, and discolouration.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: This type of eczema affects people with oily skin and hair and those who have weak immunity. It causes symptoms such as scaly and dry patches on their chest, eyelids, and eyebrows.
- Neurodermatitis: The symptoms of neurodermatitis include scaly and itchy patches on your limbs, neck, and anal region.
Depending on the different types of psoriasis, you can experience various symptoms; some of the common ones include:
- Psoriatic Arthritis: People with psoriatic arthritis experience inflammation in their joints.
- Plaque Psoriasis: In this skin condition, people often experience symptoms such as red and raised dry skin patches with white or silver scales on their knees, elbows, and back.
- Inverse Psoriasis: Unlike plaque psoriasis, this type of psoriasis causes symptoms like smooth red patches.
- Nail Psoriasis: Psoriasis that affects your nails can cause discolouration, pitting, and abnormal nail growth patterns. In severe cases, the nails can separate or crumble from the nail beds.
The appearance will differ depending on your diagnosis, skin colour, and the type of eczema you have. While the classic red, itchy, scaly, dry, and thick skin would come to your mind when thinking about eczema. It is true for people with light to medium skin tones, but that is not the case with everyone — people with darker skin colour experience a more ashy, purple, and brown coloured reaction.
Psoriasis also causes red patches on your skin; however, they are more raised and look scaly and silvery. Upon closer inspection, the skin would appear more inflamed and thicker than eczema.
Where They Show Up
This skin condition mostly appears in areas like behind the knees and elbows. You can also experience it on the ankles, wrists, and neck. You can also notice eczema on babies, usually on their scalp, chin, chest, cheeks, arms, back, and legs.
You can see a psoriasis flare-up on your finger and toenails, elbows, eyelids, knees, ears, scalp, skin folds, face, palms, lower back, soles, and lips.
The most common triggers for eczema flare-ups include:
- Season change
- Dry skin
- Hormonal changes
- Hot baths
- Infections from bacteria or yeast
- Certain metals like nickel, gold, or copper
Triggers of psoriasis include:
- Food allergies
- Allergies due to the environment
Eczema usually begins at a young age, and its symptoms may improve over time. It is not common for this skin condition to appear in adults but can happen due to other underlying conditions like stress, hormonal changes, or thyroid.
In contrast, babies can rarely get psoriasis. It usually shows up for people between the ages of 15 to 35, and you can get it at any other age as well.
There is still no cure for both of the skin conditions, but you can prevent eczema and psoriasis flare-ups and manage them with proper treatment.
Treatment for eczema varies depending on how intense it is. Mild-to-moderate cases may be managed with a topical corticosteroid to reduce inflammation and an emollient, such as a cream or oil-based moisturizer, to avoid further drying out of the skin. More severe eczema could necessitate a medicine that affects the immune system, like methotrexate, azathioprine, or cyclosporine. Additionally, light therapy or phototherapy using ultraviolet light may also be recommended.
Treating psoriasis may involve either a systemic approach, targeting the entire body, or a topical one, involving creams or ointments to the skin.
Mild cases may be managed with topical corticosteroids and emollients. For more severe cases, light therapy is combined with medications like methotrexate, cyclosporine, acretin, or apremilast.
When to See the Doctor if You Have Eczema or Psoriasis
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, it’s best to visit your doctor immediately to avoid worsening the situation. A dermatologist can handle skin conditions with a proper treatment plan and precautions.
Krishma Patel is the Co-founder and the Superintendent Pharmacist at MedsNow, an online pharmacy in the UK that provides health and wellness products and treatments along with free online consultations. She is passionate about showcasing the integral function community pharmacies can play in supporting the healthcare system and the NHS by providing patients with high quality, safe and discreet access to healthcare at their convenience. Along with being the co-founder of MedsNow, Krishma is also the Director and the Superintendent Pharmacist of Enimed Ltd., an independent pharmacy group comprising 32 branches.