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Do You Have Eczema or Psoriasis? How to Tell Them Apart

By HERWriter
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Is It Eczema or Psoriasis? How to Tell Them Apart undrey/Fotolia

It’s not surprising that many people don’t know the difference between eczema and psoriasis. It’s easy to confuse the two diseases as they are very similar in appearance. Many doctors believe both skin conditions stem from an immune disorder.

While they have some things in common, there are many differences.

With psoriasis, a person’s white blood cells attack their own skin by mistake, setting off a chain reaction causes blood vessels to dilate and attract even more white blood cells.

The result? Increased production of skin cells that travel too fast to the surface, in days rather than in weeks.

This causes dead skin and white blood cells to build up and appear as thick, scaly silvery patches on the skin's surface, according to Mayo Clinic.

As for eczema, genetic and environmental factors are believed to be involved.

Eczema makes skin red and inflamed. Patches are sometimes dark, rough, leathery and swelling. They can be crusty, oozy or scaly. They can appear on the face, inside the elbows, the back of knees and on hands and feet.

One of the worst symptoms of eczema is an intense itch which mostly happens at night. Sometimes people can scratch so hard that their skin bleeds.

For those with psoriasis, the patches may or may not be itchy. But if they do itch, the skin may feel burning or stinging. According to WebMD, some say it feels like being bitten by fire ants.

The scaly and silvery patches are often found outside the elbows and knees. It’s common for it to affect the scalp and nails as well.

An eczema breakout can be triggered by certain substances and environmental factors.

Healthgrades listed common triggers as household cleansers, detergents, soaps, chlorine, dust, pets, pollen, mold, dandruff, wool and some foods. Other culprits include sudden temperate changes and stress.

Psoriasis triggers are generally physiological. For example, some medications, stress, cold weather, smoking and alcohol can induce or worsen an episode of psoriasis, according to LiveStrong.com.

Sufferers can also experience outbreaks when their skin is injured. This happens via scratches, sunburn and vaccination.

Eczema tends to be a childhood skin disease. Bel Marra Health said that many people outgrow it when they become teens or are in their early twenties.

Psoriasis, on the other hand, usually appears between the ages of 15 and 35. Unfortunately, it’s not limited to that age range. People of other ages can get it too.

According to Bel Marra Health, 31.6 million Americans have eczema and approximately 7.5 million people suffer from psoriasis.

When it comes to treatments, eczema patients respond well to corticosteroid creams and antihistamines which reduce inflammation and relieve itching. Phototherapy (using ultraviolet light) keeps the immune system in check.

There is no cure for psoriasis, but patients can benefit from three types of treatments.

Topical treatments can be salicylic acid and steroid creams. Phototherapy is also effective. And oral medications work with the immune system or clear the psoriasis patches.

Reviewed August 10, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Marchione, Victor, Dr. "Psoriasis vs Eczema Skin Disease: Differences, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment." Bel Marra Health Breaking Health News and Health Information. N.p., 2015. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.

McClure, Susan T. "Differences Between Eczema & Psoriasis." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 2015. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.

"Psoriasis vs Eczema: What's the Difference? How Can I Tell?" WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.

Soung, Jane. "Psoriasis, Eczema, Dermatitis: What's the Difference?" Psoriasis, Eczema, Dermatitis: What's the Difference? N.p., 2015. Web. 05 Aug. 2016.

Psoriasis Causes. Mayoclinic.com. Web 10 Aug. 2016. 

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.