Psoriasis Vs. Eczema: What's the Difference?

According to NBC News, about 80% of all US women, men, and children who use the internet have searched at least once for information about their health. In fact, after checking your email and checking out cool new products to buy, “checking” your health is the most popular activity online.

You’ve probably done it, too, especially if you’ve been itching a lot lately and especially if that itch has developed into a red or scaly rash.

Although the internet has expanded our ability to get information about our health in just seconds, the information that’s available is general, not specific to your own case. Your results can leave you even more confused about your symptoms after your search than you were before. Enter the term “red rash” in your search bar, and you’ll wind up with about 201 million results. 

Between your online searches and just talking to friends and family, you whittled your rash down to two possibilities: Eczema or psoriasis. Now what?

At Specialists in Dermatology — with locations in Houston and The Woodlands, Texas — expert dermatologists Dr. Brent A. Shook and Dr. Robert Cook-Norris, and physician assistants Susannah Andrews and Michelle Purtle — understand your need for answers. If you think you have eczema or psoriasis, here are a few of the key facts you need to know about each skin condition.

What is eczema?

Eczema is an inflammatory condition that may be inherited. Eczema is also called atopic dermatitis. The term “atopic” refers to the tendency to develop an allergic reaction, which is why people with eczema often have other allergies, including hay fever.

Eczema is always itchy, but not always “rashy.” If you find yourself scratching frequently — whether or not you have a red rash — you could have eczema. The classic symptoms of eczema include:

Infants may have tiny eczema bumps on their cheeks. Children and adults may develop rashes in the folds of their joints, on the backs of their hands, or on their scalps. 

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an immune-system disorder that affects the way your skin functions. Normally, your skin sheds dead cells regularly, replacing them with fresh new skin cells. If you have psoriasis, however, you don’t shed the outer layer of your skin. 

Simultaneously, your skin produces new cells at a faster-than-normal rate. The dead cells collect on the surface, creating silvery looking plaques. 

As with eczema, you may inherit psoriasis, though some cases start with an infection, such as strep throat. Psoriasis is associated with more serious health conditions, including diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. The classic symptoms of psoriasis are:

If your skin becomes fiery red and itchy or starts to peel in sheets, contact us immediately. This type of psoriasis (i.e., erythromdermic) can be life-threatening if not treated.

Eczema can look like psoriasis and vice versa

Now that you have the differences between eczema and psoriasis clearly in mind, it’s time to stir up the waters. Especially in the early stages of disease, eczema and psoriasis can resemble each other. In fact, if you go to a physician who isn’t a dermatologist, you might actually get a misdiagnosis. Dermatologists, however, are highly trained in identifying and treating skin conditions. To the dermatology experts at Specialists in Dermatology, the differences in eczema and psoriasis are easy to identify through a simple visual examination. We may also biopsy your skin and look at it under a microscope to confirm the diagnosis.

Because eczema is an inflammatory disorder and psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, the treatments for each condition may be different, depending on the severity of your case. You may be able to control mild eczema by avoiding allergic triggers and keeping your skin moist. If you have psoriasis, you may need intravenous therapies or biologics.

Which itch is your itch?

The best way to tell for sure if you have eczema or psoriasis is to get a diagnosis from our experts. Their years of training and clinical experience, plus the diagnostic tools we have on-site at our offices, means that you get an accurate diagnosis, so you can proceed with the most effective treatments available. 

To find out whether you have psoriasiseczema,  or need to treat a different kind of itch, contact us today by calling your nearest office or using the online form. 

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