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Do you know the difference between eczema and psoriasis?

Eczema and psoriasis are two of the most common conditions treated by DermatologistOnCall’s online doctors. That’s not surprising as 32 million Americans will develop eczema in their lifetime, and more than 7 million live with psoriasis. Even though approximately 10% of the population will face one or both of these conditions at some point, there is still a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to the disorders.

Because the two conditions can look so similar, and yet come with unique challenges, it’s important to have the affected area examined by an experienced dermatologist - either online or in-person. Proper diagnosis is essential to relief.

Confused by the conditions? Eczema and psoriasis share many similarities.

To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference between eczema and psoriasis. Both cause red, raised, itchy rashes. Both can flare, especially in stressful situations. There is no cure for either condition; however, there are many effective therapies - and there is a lot of overlap in those therapies. Dermatologists are likely to recommend soothing moisturizers to patients with either condition in conjunction with other medications, UV therapy, or lifestyle changes. Seeking help and keeping up with dermatology appointments is important for patients with eczema and psoriasis. If left untreated, broken skin - a frequent symptom of both conditions - can lead to serious infection.

Differences between eczema and psoriasis

Eczema and psoriasis have different underlying causes.

Cause of eczema - Eczema is caused by environmental or genetic factors. Eczema is not a single condition but rather a collection of several conditions to include: atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema), contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, hand eczema, neurodermatitis, nummular eczema, and stasis dermatitis.

Cause of psoriasis - Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder. That means the immune system is causing skin cells to grow too fast; those cells accumulate on the skin, causing the red, itchy rash with white scaly patches.

Eczema and psoriasis often appear as red, scaly rashes; however, there are subtle differences between them.

What eczema looks like - Because there are so many different eczema types, it can show up in several ways. While normally bright red, eczema rashes can also be dark brown or grey. Often, there are bumps or leathery patches. The skin will usually feel warm or hot to the touch and may be swollen. The rashes may bleed or weep.

What psoriasis looks like - Psoriasis patients generally have red, raised patches that may crack and bleed. Typically, the raised rash has a white or silver crust on top. The white coating is made up of dead skin cells produced by an immune system in overdrive. Psoriasis most often appears on the scalp, face, elbows, and knees.

Eczema and psoriasis typically feel different from each other. (However, it’s important to note that every patient is unique, and experiences may vary.)

What eczema feels like - Eczema is intensely itchy. Patients often scratch so much it breaks the skin and causes bleeding.

What psoriasis feels like - Psoriasis causes a mild, persistent itch or a deep burning sensation during flares. Many psoriasis patients also have psoriatic arthritis, which causes flares of stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints.

The stigma surrounding eczema and psoriasis

Unfortunately, patients with eczema, psoriasis, and those with other skin conditions, often face discrimination in social settings. Much of this is driven by a lack of awareness and understanding coupled with looking a bit different. It’s important to note:

  • Eczema is not contagious.
  • Psoriasis is not contagious.
  • Patients cannot spread either condition to others.

Eczema or psoriasis, an online dermatologist can help.

Whether you have been diagnosed with a condition or you’re currently seeking answers, DermatologistOnCall enables you to start a same-day visit with a dermatologist. All online doctors are board-certified and will respond quickly - typically within 24 hours (however, we guarantee that your online dermatologist will respond within three days). You can continue to see the same dermatologist (or select a new provider) with every visit, allowing you to manage your condition online.