Have dry, scaly skin woes? Maybe an itchy rash? A simple online search may give you dozens of answers as to what could be causing your skin condition. Two possible culprits for red, itchy skin are psoriasis and eczema. Many people can’t tell the difference between the two with the naked eye alone, but psoriasis and eczema have distinct causes and treatments.
The Basic Differences Between Psoriasis and Eczema
Psoriasis is a life-long (chronic) autoimmune disease that has flare-ups and remissions. An autoimmune disease is the result of a dysfunctional immune system causing the body to attack itself. In psoriasis, the body triggers skin cells to grow more quickly than they should, resulting in painful buildup on the skin. There are numerous autoimmune diseases, but psoriasis manifests symptoms such as itchy, scaly, and painful red plaques caused by dead skin cells building up on the skin. Additional symptoms may include joint swelling or stiffness.
Eczema also causes red, itchy skin and can be a life-long medical condition. Eczema is most commonly found in children, who may complain of an intense itching. Often, the itch cannot be satisfied, even when the skin breaks/bleeds. This causes further skin irritation and can spread rashes. Peeling may resemble a sunburn or callus. Special care should be taken to avoid introducing bacterial or viral infections into any open wounds caused by scratching rashes.
Some of the key differences between psoriasis and eczema include:
- Age of onset: Children experience eczema more frequently than adults. In fact, it’s found in as many as 10% of children under the age of 6. By contrast, psoriasis only affects 1% of children, according to research by the American Academy of Dermatology, and often develops between the ages of 15 and 35.
- Location of rashes: Eczema occurs most frequently where the skin “bends,” such as the crooks of the elbows or the backs of the knees. Psoriasis plaques are usually found on the elbows and knees, but they can be found anywhere on the body and may even cover a fraction of the entire body.
- Characteristics of rashes: In psoriasis, the plaques on the skin tend to be thicker and cause dry scaling, while a distinct characteristic of eczema is fluid leaking through the skin. Eczema rashes tend to be intensely itchy, but psoriasis is usually less itchy. Some psoriasis patients say their skin feels like it’s being bitten by fire ants.
- Triggers: Eczema can result from contact with skin irritants, such as from fragrances in soaps and detergents. Allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust can also irritate eczema. On the other hand, psoriasis is more likely to be triggered by stress or infections, but injuries to the skin may cause flareups, such as a sunburn or scratching.
- Treatment techniques: Psoriasis cannot be cured, but it is manageable with systemic treatment (treatments affecting the entire body), such as light therapy that can slow down skin cell turnover and reduce inflammation. Topical creams may help, but they don’t work for everyone. Injections of retinoids, methotrexate, or immune-suppressing drugs may be used to treat moderate to severe psoriasis, whereas eczema can be treated with corticosteroids to control inflammation, and topical creams on the skin.
When you come in for your appointment at Primary Care Associates of Texas, your doctor will take a medical history and ask about any other medical problems you may have. A biopsy may be required to make a definitive diagnosis, because psoriasis and eczema differ in their cellular and molecular makeup.
Still unsure of whether you have psoriasis or eczema? Book your consultation online or call for an appointment at today.