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What’s the Difference Between Psoriasis & Eczema?
Nothing is more satisfying than scratching an intense itch. Likewise, nothing is more frustrating than a persistent itch that evades relief. Psoriasis and eczema are two relatively common skin disorders that cause dryness, itching, and rashes which can become red and inflamed with scratching.
Psoriasis and eczema sometimes look very similar, but it’s the differences that may help you and your doctor come to a diagnosis. Here’s what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for both.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition with a genetic component which causes the skin cells to grow at an abnormal speed. This results in the buildup of scaly, red skin lesions which may burn or itch. Psoriasis typically develops between the ages of 15 and 25 and affects more than 8 million Americans and over 125 million people around the world.
There are several forms of psoriasis including plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. Plaque psoriasis, the most common form, is characterized by raised lesions covered with a white build-up of dead skin cells. Other forms produce red, shiny lesions or blisters of pus. Erythrodermic psoriasis is one of the most severe forms – it can cover most of the body and causes severe pain and skin peeling.
What is Eczema?
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition thought to have an immune component. This condition often occurs in conjunction with primary immunodeficiency diseases and has also been associated with allergies and asthma. Eczema typically develops in childhood and may resolve with age. Up to 20% of children have eczema but only 1% to 3% of adults.
Eczema is characterized by dry, itchy patches of skin that may weep, seeping a clear fluid which results in a crust. The condition may be worsened by scratching or by certain irritants and environmental conditions. Though the condition can disappear over time, it is more persistent in men than women.
An In-Depth Look at Symptoms
Both psoriasis and eczema can present with dry skin, rashes, and itching. Because the symptoms often overlap, however, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Sometimes the best way to tell the difference between psoriasis and eczema is to look at the appearance of the skin and to explore how it feels.
Eczema caused redness and inflammation but may also produce dry, itchy patches of skin that seep clear fluid which results in a crust. The red patches caused by psoriasis are typically raised and may have a silvery or scaly appearance. Eczema tends to react more severely to sunlight, whereas UV light may slow the progression of psoriasis. People who suffer from psoriasis describe the itching as mild, sometimes with a burning or stinging sensation. Eczema, on the other hand, causes intense itching; people with eczema may scratch so much the skin starts to bleed.
Exploring the Treatment Options
Eczema and psoriasis are both long-term conditions that require long-term treatments. Treatment may depend on the severity of symptoms as well as the size and location of the affected area of skin. Common treatments include topical anti-inflammatories, hydrating skin creams, phototherapy, and biologic or systemic drugs to control the body’s inflammatory and immune responses.
In addition to discussing treatment options with your doctor, it’s important to avoid factors that may trigger or worsen your symptoms. Eczema may be worsened by wetness or allergies as well as certain cleansers, soaps, and detergents. Psoriasis flare-ups are more likely to follow injuries to the skin and can also be brought about by stress or infection.
The first step in resolving your skin issues is to talk to your doctor to receive a diagnosis. Though both eczema and psoriasis can be chronic, finding the right treatment may help relieve symptoms and reduce flare-ups.
It is not the policy of the Eczema Association of Australasia Inc to recommend or endorse any product or treatment. It is part of the role of the Association to provide information on a wide range of products and treatments to keep those involved with eczema as fully informed as possible as to all options available. For medical advice, consult your health professional.