What is the difference between eczema and psoriasis?
Eczema is the name for a group of conditions that cause inflamed, itchy, rash-like skin. While the exact cause of eczema is unclear, it is likely from an overactive immune system response. When you are exposed to an irritant or an allergen, your immune system switches on, creating inflammation and a skin reaction.
Some people with eczema don't make a protein called filaggrin that builds your skin barrier. Without this protein, your skin loses moisture, and bacteria can get in, so people with eczema tend to have dry skin and skin infections.
There are seven different types of eczema, which include allergic reactions. People who have asthma and allergies are likely to have eczema, but other things can trigger symptoms. These include the following:
- Chemical irritants in cleaning and skin care products that touch your skin
- Fabrics like wool or polyester that irritate the skin
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes your skin cells to regenerate too quickly. In healthy skin, keratinocyte cells die, shed, and renew themselves in 21 days. In psoriasis, your skin cells regenerate in 7 days but don't shed, leading to a buildup of skin cells that cause plaques or patches.
It also causes inflammation throughout your body, which can affect your joints and lead to psoriatic arthritis.
There are seven different types of psoriasis. Some can cause severe and life-threatening flare-ups that lead to shedding sheets of skin, fluid loss, changes to your body temperature, and a high risk for infection.
What are the signs and symptoms of eczema and psoriasis?
So how do you tell the two diseases apart? Both cause red, itchy, and inflamed skin, but eczema is generally itchier than psoriasis. Psoriasis tends to cause painful cracking and bleeding. Eczema commonly affects children, while signs of psoriasis usually start around age 20.
Symptoms of eczema include the following:
- Dry skin
- Sensitive skin
- Rough or scaly patches
- Oozing or crusting skin
- Skin infections
- Itchy, red, swollen rash after you touch something that irritates your skin
Psoriasis patches look different than eczema patches. Symptoms and signs of psoriasis include the following:
- Raised patches with well-defined edges
- Red patches with silver scales
- Patches look dry, cracked, and inflamed
- Usually affects elbows, knees, chest, scalp, and lower back
- Pus-filled bumps on your hands and feet
- Discolored fingernails and toenails
- Raised and crumbly nails
- Shiny, red patches on your skin fold like your armpits or groin
Is there a cure for eczema or psoriasis?
There is no cure for both eczema and psoriasis. Both are ongoing and lifelong conditions, but some types of eczema and psoriasis can fully clear up. Guttate psoriasis, for example, often happens when you have an infection like strep throat and often goes away when the infection clears up. For some people, it never comes back.
But eczema and psoriasis are different for everyone. Some people have flares more often and severe symptoms while others need more treatment.
What are treatments for eczema and psoriasis?
Treatment for eczema and psoriasis depends on the type and the severity. Mild cases of both psoriasis and eczema can be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications and creams.
Eczema is often treated in the following ways:
- Antihistamines to help with allergic reactions and itchiness
- Pain relievers for burning, swelling, or pain
- Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
- Prescription topical calcineurin inhibitors that block immune cells
- Prescription steroid cream
- Steroid medications
- Immune system medications like methotrexate
- Prescription light therapy
Daily skincare and bathing routines are also important for eczema. Skin infections are a common problem, so regular bleach baths can manage bacteria and lower symptoms. You can also take the following steps:
- Moisturize daily to help with dryness and itchiness.
- Take lukewarm baths and showers.
- Avoid harsh and irritating chemicals.
- Use a skin barrier cream.
Psoriasis treatment is similar, but there are some differences. Your doctor might suggest these measures:
- Over-the-counter steroid creams for small plaques
- Coal tar for small plaques
- Biologics like methotrexate
- Vitamin D to slow down skin cell growth
- Vitamin A
- Prescription steroid medications
- Prescription light therapy
- Prescription steroid cream
Lifestyle changes are also important to managing triggers and psoriasis flare-ups. You should try the following:
American Academy of Dermatology Association. "Eczema Types: Atopic Dermatitis Causes," "Psoriasis: Signs and Symptoms."
Canadian Dermatology Association. "Article: Psoriasis vs. Eczema."
Eczema Foundation. "Eczema Versus Psoriasis: How to Tell the Difference."
National Eczema Association. Eczema Causes and Triggers," "Eczema Treatments Overview," "What is Eczema?"
National Psoriasis Foundation. "About Psoriasis," "Treatments for Psoriatic Disease."
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