Psoriasis and eczema are both skin disorders characterized by itchy, red rashes. Given the similarity between some of their symptoms, it can be difficult to tell them apart. As such, it is beneficial to know the causes and differences between the two.
What Causes Eczema and Psoriasis?
The two conditions do have similar causes, for both are caused by malfunctions of the immune system. There are also several different types of each condition, and the causes and symptoms can vary depending on the type.
The most common type of eczema is also called atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema. “Atopic” means it’s part of a group of inherited susceptibilities to developing other allergic conditions, like hay fever or asthma. While the exact cause of eczema isn’t known, it is currently believed to be caused by the body’s immune system overreacting to an irritant. Common triggers of an outbreak include temperature extremes, upper respiratory infections like colds, dust, pet dander, certain foods, stress, and soap.
While eczema simply makes the skin unduly sensitive to stimuli, psoriasis alters the way skin cells are made. The malfunction in the immune system accelerates the production of new skin cells to such a degree that the body can’t shed the old ones quickly enough. As a result, the dead skins cells build up on the skin’s surface. In the most common type of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis, the skin cells form red plaques covered with silvery scales. The most common triggers of a flare-up include stress, cold, sunburn and some medications.
The typical age of onset is one difference. While eczema can affect adults, it is far more common in infants and children. Psoriasis, by contrast, affects primarily adolescents and adults. Most patients are between 15 and 30 when they first develop it. Psoriasis can also first appear in people between 50 and 60. Eczema also becomes less severe as the patient grows older, while psoriasis does not.
The rashes can occur in different places. In eczema, the rash most commonly appears on the face, wrists, hands, chest, back, scalp, neck, ankles, back of the knees and feet. Psoriasis is most commonly seen on the scalp, lower back, elbows, and knees. It can also affect the fingernails and make them brittle and/or pitted. Psoriasis can cause fingernails to crumble and fall off.
Differences in Treatment
Treatments for eczema are designed to relieve the itching, irritation, and dryness. They can include creams and lotions. Our doctors may also recommend corticosteroids. Wet compresses can help to relieve itching, as well.
Psoriasis treatments aim to slow down the production of skin cells to a normal pace. These treatments can consist of skin creams or oral medications. Our doctor may also recommend light therapy, which can help to reduce painful symptoms.
Learn More Today
To learn more about psoriasis and/or eczema, visit Pinnacle Dermatology in Birmingham. We can assess your unique situation and help form a treatment plan that is perfect for you. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment.