Have you ever experienced painful and itchy rashes, flaky skin, or overall dryness? They may share common symptoms, but make no mistake: Eczema and psoriasis are two separate conditions. Both are among the most common conditions treated in dermatology.
It’s rare but possible for people to have both eczema and psoriasis at the same time. However, it is possible to have more than one type of either condition at the same time as well.
Understanding the differences between them is crucial to develop the best treatment plan for yourself or a loved one. Below, we'll explore the differences and similarities of the two so you can better identify psoriasis vs. eczema.
SIMILARITY: Psoriasis and Eczema Are Not Contagious
Your friends and family don’t need to worry about getting infected if you have either skin condition. Those who are not educated about psoriasis or eczema may become nervous when they see your red rash, but you cannot “give” it to others since it’s not contagious. The only caveat to this is if your rash causes an open sore or wound. This could cause you to contract a completely different type of infection that may be contagious to others.
You can always check with a doctor if you’re curious about an open sore. Healing moisturizing cream can also help reduce the risk of open wounds through barrier-sealing ingredients such as beeswax, honey, and oils.
DIFFERENCE: Root Causes of Psoriasis and Eczema
While the cause of psoriasis is relatively straightforward, eczema presents a more nuanced case.
Psoriasis develops when an overactive immune system causes excessive skin cell reproduction. With psoriasis, affected areas can produce up to 10 times the normal skin cell count, resulting in uncomfortable and excessive flaking, scaling, and itching.
Eczema may present similar symptoms, but can instead be caused by allergic reactions (dyshidrotic eczema) or from contact with allergens (contact dermatitis). Eczema typically develops in conjunction with other allergies, while psoriasis typically develops from physical trauma, such as sunburn or injuries.
SIMILARITY: Psoriasis and Eczema Are Chronic Conditions
Unfortunately, these conditions won’t simply go away and there’s no official “cure” for either one.
This doesn’t mean all hope is lost. With a proper treatment plan and lifestyle commitment, you can manage your psoriasis or eczema without sacrificing a full life. Uncomfortable flare-ups can cause both emotional and physical difficulties. With proper attention and care, you can significantly decrease flare-ups and have an effective plan of action when they come your way.
DIFFERENCE: Psoriasis and Eczema Are More Prevalent Among Different Age Groups
These conditions can affect people of any age. That being said, the most common form of eczema (atopic dermatitis) most commonly begins during childhood, whereas psoriasis typically develops from ages 15 to 35. Along with performing skin tests, this is one of multiple methods pediatricians or doctors may use to distinguish between the two.
SIMILARITY: Psoriasis and Eczema Both Need Moisture
Shared symptoms such as patchy red rashes combined with dry skin can make it difficult to distinguish between psoriasis and eczema, despite the above-mentioned differences in cause and development.
The good news is that incorporating regular moisturizing into your lifestyle will help relieve these frustrating symptoms. It’s best to moisturize after bathing or exfoliating to lock in hydration on clean skin. Although moisturizing won’t make your condition disappear, finding the right healing cream is one of the most effective ways to treat the most difficult psoriasis and eczema symptoms.
DIFFERENCE: Psoriasis and Eczema Don’t Always Look the Same
Although they may often seem similar, psoriasis has a darker, more leather-like appearance compared to a typically red eczema rash. The psoriasis rash itself also tends to be more raised above the skin’s surface compared to eczema.
The many different types of eczema can have different appearances. For example, nummular eczema is characterized by circular lesions. It’s hard to generalize when it comes to the overall appearance of an eczema rash.
SIMILARITY: Psoriasis and Eczema Can Be Managed by Diet and Lifestyle
In addition to a proper skincare routine, you can effectively manage symptoms of both conditions through a 360-degree approach to treatment. An anti-inflammatory diet rich in omega–3s can aid in reducing flare-ups. Defining the foods that trigger your rashes and systematically avoiding them will also help. Regular exercising can aid in reducing stress, which is essential to managing a difficult condition like eczema or psoriasis.
DIFFERENCE: Psoriasis and Eczema Require Different Treatment Products
While there are some skincare products that effectively treat both conditions, a more customized approach will help you tailor your routine to your specific needs and better alleviate symptoms.
Salicylic acid, for example, is a skincare ingredient that may be highly effective in helping with psoriasis. Salicylic acid helps promote the turnover of dead skin cells, which reduces scaling.
SIMILARITY: Psoriasis and Eczema Are Both Serious
Don’t let anyone downplay the impact that either psoriasis or eczema can have on your daily life. Not only are they extremely annoying, but these conditions can cause a high degree of physical and emotional pain.
Sure, psoriasis and eczema aren’t endangering your life like other conditions, but they still cause harm. It is critical to consult your doctor or general practitioner for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan and to educate friends and family to spread awareness and understanding.
Psoriasis: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
There are several major types of psoriasis. While there’s no cure for psoriasis, there are certainly ways to relieve suffering from the symptoms. Below is a brief description of each, along with a suggested treatment.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. The name comes from the raised lesions on the skin that are often dry and red, with silvery skin flakes on top. These lesions can hurt and itch. Plaque psoriasis can be found anywhere on the body and can vary greatly in its extent, from one localized outbreak to many outbreaks on the body.
For plaque psoriasis, try a specialized psoriasis cream. It will help you exfoliate the excess skin cells while reducing redness and itch.
Guttate psoriasis is a less common form of psoriasis that usually occurs as a result of a bacterial or viral infection, though reactions to certain medications or stress can cause it as well. Rather than scales, the outbreak appears as small “drops” that are not as raised as plaque psoriasis and typically don’t leave a scar. It usually appears on the trunk or the limbs and can be minor to severe.
Besides treatments like phototherapy, a hot bath with a psoriasis-friendly bath bomb can help relieve these symptoms.
Inverse psoriasis occurs where skin meets skin. It shows up as a red, itchy, sensitive rash that is neither raised nor scaly. Common places for inverse psoriasis to occur are in skin folds, armpits, under the breasts, or any place there is frequent friction and moisture.
A topical cream is usually the best way to treat inverse psoriasis. Applied daily, the cream can reduce irritation and improve the quality of the skin.
Pustular psoriasis is a more severe form of psoriasis. Sufferers of pustular psoriasis will notice non-infected pustules filled with pus. These can be localized to areas like the hands and the feet or they may be more widespread. In addition to pustules, this condition can lead to redness and scaling as well.
Pustular psoriasis can be triggered by a number of different causes, ranging from medications to pregnancy to stress and overexposure to sunlight.
If it’s widespread, it’s best to consult a dermatologist as, in some cases, it can be life-threatening.
If it’s localized to the hands and feet, for example, switching to a psoriasis-friendly soap can help reduce symptoms.
Although it’s one of the least common types of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis can cause major discomfort for those who suffer from it. It can cover the entire body with a painful, irritated, red rash.
Erythrodermic psoriasis should be treated by a dermatologist. At home, sufferers can reduce their symptoms with a soothing psoriasis-friendly bath.
Psoriasis can also affect the fingernails and toenails. They can cause the nails to become lumpy or discolored. In some circumstances, nail psoriasis can cause the fingernail to fall off or crumble altogether.
A psoriasis serum can be helpful in treating nail psoriasis by encouraging cell turnover and helping hydrate the nails and the skin around them.
Psoriatic arthritis affects both the joints and the skin. In this case, both joints and skin will become painful and inflamed. Psoriatic arthritis can range from mild to severe and can affect any part of the body. If left untreated, it can cause long-term joint damage.
If you’re concerned about psoriatic arthritis, it’s best to speak to a doctor. At home, you can apply a topical psoriasis cream to help alleviate symptoms.
Eczema: Types, Symptoms, and Treatments
Just like psoriasis, there are several major types of eczema and there is no cure. For those with children who suffer from eczema, take comfort in the fact that many doctors note that food-related eczema symptoms tend to decrease over time.
Atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is the most common type of eczema. If you’re diagnosed with atopic eczema, the causes can be numerous and varied. It’s red and itchy and can appear on the face, neck, joints, or in skin folds.
Atopic eczema can appear for many reasons, including genetics, family history, or personal immune system irregularities. It’s common in children, though adults suffer as well.
Using a gentle, soothing topical cream can help reduce the redness and itch while repairing your skin.
Nummular eczema is a specific variety of eczema in which itchy, coin-shaped lesions appear. It often appears as a result of a burn, insect bite, or other injury to the skin. Although it most frequently appears on the arms or legs, it may spread to the torso. It needs to be treated or it can result in an infection.
Nummular eczema should be examined by a doctor, but its symptoms can be relieved at home with a cleansing and hydrating spray.
Seborrheic eczema is a form of eczema that usually affects the face and scalp. It can cause red, scaly patches on the scalp and is one of the leading causes of dandruff. It’s common on the scalp in infants, where it’s called cradle cap.
Healing your scalp with a moisturizing and exfoliating oil can be an excellent treatment for seborrheic eczema.
Contact eczema, also called contact dermatitis, is a result of an allergic reaction to something the skin has come in contact with. What exactly causes it can vary wildly between people: chemicals, soaps, fragrances, certain metals, and poison ivy can all cause contact eczema.
Contact eczema is usually localized to the spot that has contacted the irritant. It can be red, itchy, and painful, and can last up to a month. The affected spot will be red and painful, and can sometimes blister.
Because contact eczema can be localized, a local, gentle anti-irritant can be helpful in reducing the itch and pain.
Dyshidrotic eczema is a form that appears on the palms of the hands, fingers, soles of the feet, and toes. It can cause blisters and painful lesions while being very itchy.
The cause is unknown, though it’s been linked to stress and allergies.
Using a soothing foot or hand soak can be a major aid in reducing symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema.
Autoimmune Progesterone Eczema
Autoimmune progesterone eczema (APE) is related to the amount of the hormone progesterone in the body. It’s caused by the body being allergic to progesterone or increased progesterone levels exacerbating an existing allergy. It usually appears when progesterone levels rise towards the end of a menstrual cycle.
The outbreaks can appear anywhere and can be from mild to severe. This is often a difficult type of eczema to diagnose due to its cyclical nature. If you have recurring eczema, consult your dermatologist. They can test to see if you’re allergic to progesterone.
Conclusion: Know the Difference to Know What’s Best for You
Despite both being chronic skin conditions, psoriasis and eczema have different root causes that require different diagnosis and treatment. While this guide is not a substitute for a proper diagnosis, we hope it can help guide you in the right direction as you explore your condition with your doctor to develop treatment strategies that let you live your life to the fullest, regardless of whether you have psoriasis or eczema.