What’s the Difference Between Eczema and Psoriasis?

Did you know that August is Psoriasis Awareness Month? Up to 7.5 million Americans and 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis. This accounts for 2.2% of the American population and 2-3% of  the world population.

In the words of the National Psoriasis Foundation, “Psoriasis isn’t contagious—awareness is!” One of the most important aspects of Psoriasis Awareness Month is educating people on the condition. Today we’re discussing the difference between psoriasis and eczema, since the two skin conditions are commonly confused.

Similarities Between Eczema and Psoriasis

There are a variety of conditions and environmental factors that can result in a person’s skin becoming painful, dry, or irritated. Two of the most frequently blamed are eczema and psoriasis!

Eczema and psoriasis are confused for one another because they both cause red, itchy skin. They can be especially hard to tell apart in children. In rare (but possible!) cases, a child could have both conditions at the same time.

Differences Between Eczema and Psoriasis

Though eczema and psoriasis may look alike, the two skin conditions’ causes are very different.

Psoriasis is the result of an individual’s immune system triggering skin cells to grow faster than what is healthy. This excess of skin cells then builds up, causing the telltale scaly rash.

Eczema, on the other hand, can be caused by a variety of different things. These include the following:

  • Allergens
  • Bacteria exposure
  • Environmental factors
  • Genetics

The differences don’t stop there. Psoriasis can cause joint stiffness, while eczema cannot. There is only one type of eczema, but seven different types of psoriasis.

How to Tell the Difference

Though we mentioned there are cases in children that can’t immediately be distinguished, and that in rare cases, a child might even have both skin conditions, these situations are rare. Most people do not have both conditions, and the majority of medical professionals will be able to tell the difference.

Some differences between eczema and psoriasis include:

1 – Age of First Occurrence

A large telling factor between psoriasis and eczema is simply the person’s age! Psoriasis is known to develop between ages 15 and 35, whereas eczema is rarely seen in adults.

Does your little one have eczema? The good news is that it tends to subside by the time a child has reached kindergarten/first grade (age 5 or 6). That being said, some less lucky individuals may have flare-ups in their pubescent years as well.

Baby plays in the leaves. Often, age provides a close as to whether its psoriasis or eczema

 

Babies rarely have psoriasis; in fact, according to estimates by the American Academy of Dermatology, only 1% of children have this skin condition. If your child has a skin condition, it is more likely eczema, which affects a full 10% of kids.

2 – Appearance

While both eczema and psoriasis are characterized by rough red patches, there are subtle differences in how they look.

In someone with psoriasis, the patches are scaly and well-defined. Since they are caused by an excess of cells, these areas of skin are typically:

  • More inflamed
  • Thicker
  • Raised up higher

Eczema tends to be rough and leathery, and can also manifest itself in the form of bumps. These bumps can have a crust-like layer and, unlike psoriasis patches, can leak fluid when popped.

Though both skin conditions can be red, psoriasis plaques can also be silvery in color, while eczema might show up in brown-gray tones.

3 – Body Location

Where is your (or your child’s) rash?

Eczema most commonly appears on bending body parts, i.e. the inside of the elbow or back of the knee. It can also appear on the face or scalp, especially when it comes to infants.

Psoriasis usually makes itself known on an individual’s:

  • Ears
  • Elbows
  • Eyelids
  • Feet (soles)
  • Fingernails
  • Hands (palms)
  • Knees
  • Lower back
  • Mouth/lips
  • Scalp

As you can see, there is some overlap; however, psoriasis does have a greater amount of specific areas that can help you distinguish the difference. The fingernails, for example, are almost never an area affected by eczema.

4 – Itching

Psoriasis can last for more years, impact the body in more areas, and tends to be thicker and more inflamed. So you might be surprised to hear that eczema actually itches far more!

The intense itching brought on by this condition typically worsens at night. And since a person with eczema is usually young, they have less control over scratching that itch. This can result in swelling, sensitivity and rawness of the affected skin.

When psoriasis does cause itching, it’s usually mild. However, individuals with psoriasis may be subjected to burning or stinging sensations instead.

Psoriasis is More Serious

Eczema doesn’t have any serious health risks, and as mentioned earlier, typically goes away on its own. It can be genetic, so if you or your family members have asthma, hay fever or of course eczema itself, it’s good to be aware that your kids may have a higher risk.

Psoriasis, on the other hand, can lead to more serious health problems. These include:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Psoriatic arthritis

Since psoriasis is a more serious condition than eczema, it’s especially important to figure out which one it is.

Eczema doesn’t have a cure, but can be treated by keeping your skin clean, dry, and moisturized. A doctor can prescribe stronger creams if needed. Psoriasis can be treated with over-the-counter corticosteroids or with stronger prescription medications, depending on its severity.

Conclusion

We hope we’ve helped grow your knowledge of psoriasis this August, also known as Psoriasis Awareness Month! Remember, psoriasis is caused by overproduction of cells, so you can’t catch it from someone else. You can, however, help spread awareness!

Do you have psoriasis? Would you like to take a more proactive role in your treatments and medical care? Do you live in the Orlando area? If so, you are in luck! We are currently conducting psoriasis clinical trials at our state-of-the-art facility here in DeLand. If you’d like to receive more information, please fill out the short form on the righthand side of this page or give us a call at (386) 785-2400. We look forward to fighting psoriasis together!

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