Psoriasis vs Eczema

Eczema (atopic dermatitis) and psoriasis are quite common, chronic skin disorders that can cause embarrassment and physical discomfort to patients.  These conditions are caused by an immune breakdown and share several common symptoms as well treatments, but they also have some significant differences.  Eczema mainly increases the sensitivity of skin cells to the environment, while psoriasis actually changes the way they’re made.

Mild eczema on back of legs

Mild eczema on back of legs

It’s very rare for one to suffer from both conditions but it may indeed happen. Both skin disorders can be caused by genetics, and skin problems tend to be hereditary just as kidney problems or heart disease.

Lets take a closer look at the differences between eczema and psoriasis.


Eczema is actually a kind of dermatitis. It’s generally caused by environmental factors, such as products with bacteria, chemicals or humidity, animal dander, food allergies, etc. On the other hand, psoriasis is mostly linked to genetics. It occurs due to an overactive immune system and can be worsened by external triggers like illness, infection, climate and weather, stress and diet. These triggers, however, don’t cause psoriasis.

Age Distribution

Eczema is normally considered a childhood condition, while psoriasis tends to occur most often in adulthood. However, eczema can progress well into adulthood in some people.

Different Types

There are many types of eczema, including atopic eczema or atopic dermatitis (most common), irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, vesicular eczema or dyshydrotic eczema, adult seborrhoeic eczema, varicose eczema, eczema herpeticum, and discoid eczema.

The various types of psoriasis are as follows: plaque psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, nail psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, and erythrodermic psoriasis.


Eczema has symptoms such as itchy, red and inflamed skin, cracking and swelling of the skin, blisters, scaling, rashes or blisters on the legs or arms, crusty red rash on the cheek, and rashes around the joint particularly inside the elbows and behind the knees. The itchiness causes severe discomfort and patients may often have problems sleeping. Other eczema symptoms include ichthyosis or scaly skin areas, hyperpigmented eyelids, leathery skin (lichenification) from excessive rubbing, dark rings near the eyes (allergic shiners), small raised bumps (papules), small rough bumps (keratosis pilaris), cheilitis (lip inflammation), extra skin creases in palms (hyperlinear palms), hives (urticaria), and atopic pleat (extra skin fold under the eye).

Psoriasis symptoms include scales (red and silvery plaques), red small patches that gradually enlarge and become scaly, itchiness and inflammation on the skin, restricted joint motion and cracked skin with blisters. Psoriasis also causes severe discomfort and emotional pain.

Main Differences

(psoriasis vs eczema)

It’s very easy to confuse eczema and psoriasis because they share one defining characteristic, inflammation of skin. Here are the major differences between these skin conditions.

Eczema sufferers experience very itchy, flaky and dry skin, but this disorder can also cause pimple-like bumps that can ooze. These pimple-like bumps don’t occur in psoriasis. Actually, a big difference between eczema and psoriasis is that the latter is never moist. In fact, it produces silver, scaly, dead skin patches that continually shed.

Psoriasis is often associated with genetics; it’s caused or worsened by internal health problems (for example, psoriasis is sometimes linked to diabetes). On the other hand, eczema erupts in response to environmental or external factors, such as food allergies, exposure to abrasive cleaning chemicals or animal dander.

Eczema normally starts during childhood (approximately 80% of eczema cases start before a child is 5 years old), while psoriasis usually occurs in adulthood.

Eczema prefers sensitive areas of skin such as the inside of elbows and backs of knees, while psoriasis favors tougher skin areas like on the elbows and knees.

Treatment Options

Treating Eczema

There are many treatments for eczema, all geared towards reducing inflammation. Home remedies for eczema include applying moisturizers on the skin and ensuring you avoid too much exposure to high temperatures or sunlight. You can also apply over-the-counter creams to relieve itching and avoid toiletries containing alcohol that can dry your skin out. Work on removing common allergens, such as pet dander and dust mites in your home.  Also avoid stress and foods that can trigger breakouts, such as eggs, dairy, some grains, nuts and seafood.

Medical Treatment

Once your doctor is certain you have eczema, the main treatment includes relief from itching and anti-inflammatory medications.

The usual treatments include antihistamine medications and prescription steroid creams. If your doctor finds that you have a minor bacterial infection worsening your rash, he/she may prescribe an oral antibiotic.

For severe cases of eczema not responding to steroid cream, your doctor may try alternate treatments. These include ultraviolet light exposure, coal tar and chemotherapeutic agents. Immunotherapy usually doesn’t work for eczema.

Mild psoriasis on arm

Mild psoriasis on arm

Treating Psoriasis

Treating psoriasis is important for overall health and good disease management. Work with your healthcare provider to find treatments that eliminate or reduce your symptoms. Remember, what works for an individual with the condition might not help another. So it is critical to know the various treatments and continue trying until you get the right treatment.

Psoriasis has home remedies similar to those of eczema: moisturize your skin with lotions and creams, and ensure you avoid triggers like skin injuries, alcohol and cigarette smoke. You may also soften and cut the crusts of plaques, then apply some mild lotion to the underneath skin. However, check with your doctor first and apply carefully.

There is a wide variety of treatments for psoriasis, but it can be difficult to identify the most effective treatment.  Talk to your healthcare provider if you experience uncomfortable side effects or feel a treatment isn’t working.

Psoriasis treatment falls into 3 categories: topical, phototherapy and systemic.  Topical treatment involves the application of creams and ointments to the skin, while phototherapy exposes your skin to certain kinds of ultraviolet light. Finally, systemic treatment involves injected and oral medications that work all over the whole body.  Often, different kinds of treatments are used together.

Eczema versus psoriasis is often used because while they are both severe skin conditions, they are still very much treatable. While both disorders are chronic and have no known cure, the right treatment can reduce symptoms and occurrence.  Don’t let these skin conditions disrupt your life. Talk to your doctor about the available treatments and get relief as soon as possible.

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