Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects approximately eight million women, men, and children in the United States. It’s much rarer than a group of skin conditions known as eczema, which affects 32 million.
Although eczema is four times more common than psoriasis, it can be easy to confuse the two. Particularly in their early stages, both eczema and psoriasis manifest in similar ways. Nevertheless, these conditions are caused by different factors and must be treated differently, too.
At Specialists in Dermatology, our expert dermatologists diagnose itchy skin conditions — including eczema and psoriasis — at our offices in The Woodlands, Texas, and Houston, Texas. We then custom-design a treatment plan that helps clear your skin and makes you feel more comfortable.
Are you confused about whether you have psoriasis or eczema? The following lays out key differences and why getting the right diagnosis helps you feel better faster.
Eczema appears early
If you’ve had itchy, scaly patches on your skin since infancy or childhood, it’s probably eczema. Eczema most often first surfaces in your early years. It may clear up entirely as you age or come back intermittently.
In contrast, psoriasis rarely appears in kids or babies. You usually develop psoriasis after the age of 15 years. The prime years for the first appearance of psoriasis are between 15-35.
Psoriasis looks “scaly”
Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish eczema from psoriasis, because both skin conditions result in rough patches of rashy skin that may also itch. However, psoriasis lesions sometimes develop a “scaly” look. The scales may build upon one another, layer after layer, causing raised areas called “plaques.” The scales may have a silvery look, too.
Eczema gets leathery, but not scaly. The itchiness of eczema can cause you to scratch aggressively, which leads to inflammation and oozing. Eczema lesions also come in a variety of shapes, such as coin-shaped rashes and blisters.
Eczema hides in creases
If your rashy, itchy skin is located in creases and skin folds, it’s probably eczema. Common places to find eczema include:
- Neck folds
- Inner elbow
- Inner knee
Babies may get eczema on their trunks, legs, or scalps. Adults often develop eczema on their hands.
Psoriasis, in contrast, tends to appear on open areas of the body, such as the outer edges of joints. You might also find it on your scalp.
What makes you itch?
If you have psoriasis, your plaques may look itchy, but you may not feel the urge to scratch them. Although psoriasis can be quite itchy, at other times it isn’t at all. Or, instead of an itch, you may feel sensations more like burning or stinging.
You may also not be able to associate the itchiness or burning sensation with a trigger. However, if you feel itchy or uncomfortable after being out in the sun for a while, you may have psoriasis.
In contrast, eczema tends to be quite itchy, particularly at night. The itchiness may even be enough to awaken you from sleep. You might also find that your itch starts after contacting an allergen, such as wool, pet dander, or skincare or cleaning products. Contact dermatitis is one of the most common forms of eczema.
Do you have eczema or psoriasis? Don’t guess. Get the diagnosis and specific treatment you need for clearer, more comfortable skin by contacting us at the Specialists in Dermatology office nearest you, or fill out our convenient online scheduling form.