Eczema vs. Psoriasis – What’s the Difference?

Several days ago, your teen enjoyed a visit to the local indoor trampoline center, and suddenly a spot on their elbow is aggravated and scabby looking. Irritated skin is nothing new, but somehow this seems different leaving you to wonder if it is something more serious, like eczema or psoriasis. These two skin conditions share some similarities, making them tricky to tell apart, but understanding their differences is crucial for effective treatment.

Both eczema and psoriasis run in families and result from overactive immune responses. They often manifest as discolored skin and a rash, but their underlying causes and symptoms differ. The untrained eye has difficulty reliably distinguishing between them and in rare cases, a person can have both. Neither is contagious but stress and other outside factors can trigger both.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic immune disease where inflammatory markers trigger the skin cells to overgrow and shed too quickly. This rapid turnover results in thickened, scaly, and often painful patches of skin. These plaques typically appear on the elbows, knees, scalp, and lower back, but they can affect any part of the body. Psoriasis commonly shows up between the ages of 15 and 35. Older adults around age 60 may also see a re-emergence of symptoms. In the U.S., about 3% of adults have psoriasis as compared to only 1% of children. Psoriasis affects about 3% of adults in the U.S. and is associated with conditions like Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. medical treatment is important for access to prescription medications that can treat both the skin and joints helping to minimize psoriatic arthritis damage to the joints.

Psoriasis Symptoms:

  • Red plaques with silvery scales (on lighter skin) or purplish discoloration (on skin of color).
  • Thick, raised patches with defined borders.
  • Occasional itching
  • It is important to note that on lighter skin psoriasis on the palms of the hands, the scalp, or in the folds of skin may have plaques that appear red smooth, and shiny with less distinct edges as compared to the usual thick and silverly scales making them easy to confuse with eczema.

What is Eczema?

Normally, the skin acts as a protective barrier controlling what moves into and out of the body. Researchers have found those with eczema often have overly reactive immune systems. When the immune system releases inflammatory markers to the skin, the skin gives in to inflammation and breaks down causing red, weepy, and itchy skin. It often starts in childhood and can be triggered by environmental factors or genetics. Eczema is four times more common than psoriasis with the most ordinary form of eczema, atopic dermatitis, often occurring in babies and children along with hay fever and asthma. These three conditions are called the “atopic triad.” Eczema affects more than 9.6 million children and 16.5 million adults.

Eczema Symptoms:

  • Dry patches, bumps, or blisters on the skin.
  • Red, weepy, and intensely itchy skin.
  • Less defined borders than psoriasis plaques.

Spotting the Differences

Both conditions cause itching and otherwise uncomfortable skin, however, one way to help distinguish between eczema and psoriasis is by where the affected skin appears. Eczema tends to occur on flexural surfaces, such as the inside of the elbows and knees, while psoriasis often affects extensor surfaces, like the outside of the elbows and knees. Additionally, eczema tends to produce more weepy blisters, whereas psoriasis plaques are thicker and scalier.

Treatment Options

Although eczema and psoriasis have different causes, they share similar treatment options:

  • Over-the-counter medications for symptom relief.
  • Topical creams or ointments to reduce inflammation.
  • Phototherapy, which uses UVB light to soothe skin.
  • Biologic medications that target specific immune system proteins.
  • Systemic medications for severe cases.

Prevention and Management

While there’s no surefire way to prevent eczema or psoriasis, you can take steps to manage flare-ups:

  • Keep skin moisturized with gentle lotions or creams.
  • Use mild soaps and detergents.
  • Avoid known triggers like stress, certain medications, and dry skin.
  • Practice stress management techniques like meditation or yoga.
  • Avoid excessive exposure to the sun and skip tanning beds
  • Consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan.

Itchy, irritated skin can be a sign of eczema or psoriasis but telling them apart requires expertise as other conditions including scabies, herpes, and mycosis can be confused for either disease. By understanding their differences and seeking medical advice, you can effectively manage these conditions and enjoy healthier, happier skin. So, next time your skin starts acting up, listen to what it’s telling you and take steps to care for it properly. Your skin will thank you for it!

Take a trip to AFC Urgent Care Arden today or visit us any day of the week for convenient and thorough care you can trust.