Psoriasis vs Eczema: Understanding the Key Differences

Male skin condition.

If you’ve ever struggled with skin problems, it’s essential to distinguish between psoriasis and eczema. Psoriasis typically appears as thick, red patches with silvery scales, often due to an overactive immune system. On the other hand, eczema tends to make your skin itchy and inflamed and is often tied to allergies or genetics. Knowing these distinctions can be a game-changer when managing and finding relief for your skin issues.


This article explores psoriasis and eczema, helping you understand the differences between these skin conditions so you can confidently manage their challenges. Join us to unravel the mysteries of psoriasis and eczema in dermatology.

Symptoms: How to Identify Psoriasis and Eczema

When distinguishing between psoriasis and eczema, understanding their symptoms is the first step. Both skin conditions can cause discomfort, but they manifest differently.

Psoriasis Symptoms

Psoriasis is often characterised by thick, red patches of skin covered with silvery scales. These patches, known as “plaque psoriasis,” result from an overactive immune system triggering the rapid production of skin cells. The excess skin cells pile up on the surface, leading to scaly skin. Psoriasis can manifest on various parts of the body, including the elbows, knees, scalp, lower back, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and face, as well as in skin folds and sometimes on the nails and genitals.

Besides the visible symptoms, psoriasis can also be associated with psoriatic arthritis, a condition that affects the joints.

Eczema Symptoms

Eczema, also referred to as atopic dermatitis or atopic eczema, typically presents with itchy, inflamed skin. Eczema can manifest on various parts of the body, such as the face, hands (learn more about eczema on hands), inner elbows and knees, legs, neck, feet, scalp, and in some cases, even on the chest or back. The affected areas may appear as red patches; in severe cases, they can develop into open sores. Eczema is often linked to genetic and environmental factors, as well as allergic reactions.

While both conditions can cause itching, the itch experienced in eczema tends to be more intense and may result in a burning or stinging sensation. In contrast, psoriasis flare-ups are characterised by thick patches of skin with silver scaling.

Unrecognizable man scratching hands allergies and psoriasis

Causes: Unravelling the Triggers Behind Psoriasis and Eczema

Understanding the underlying causes and triggers of psoriasis and eczema is essential for effective management. While both conditions share similarities in terms of chronic skin diseases, their origins are distinct.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is primarily considered an autoimmune disease. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets healthy skin cells, triggering an accelerated production of new skin cells. These excess skin cells rise to the surface, creating the characteristic thick, scaly patches associated with psoriasis. Genetic factors can play a significant role in predisposing individuals to psoriasis, but they can also be influenced by environmental factors such as stress, infections, and certain medications.

What Causes Eczema?

Eczema is often linked to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is classified as an inflammatory skin condition, and the exact cause of eczema remains a subject of ongoing research. People with a family history of eczema are more likely to develop it. Environmental triggers like allergens, irritants, and even changes in temperature or humidity can exacerbate eczema symptoms. Additionally, a compromised skin barrier, which fails to retain moisture effectively, is commonly observed in individuals with eczema.

While psoriasis is primarily driven by an overactive immune system and genetic predisposition, eczema results from genetic and environmental factors that lead to an inflammatory response and a compromised skin barrier. Understanding these distinct causes is crucial in tailoring treatment approaches to manage and reduce the symptoms of these skin conditions effectively.

Mature female doctor inspecting patient with skin rash

Treatment Options: Managing Psoriasis and Eczema Effectively

When it comes to managing psoriasis and treating eczema, there are various treatment options available. The choice of treatment depends on the severity of the condition and individual factors.

Psoriasis Treatments

Topical Medications

  • Topical Corticosteroid Creams: These anti-inflammatory creams are commonly used to reduce redness, itching, and inflammation in mild to moderate psoriasis.

  • Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors: Non-steroidal creams or ointments that help to manage psoriasis by suppressing the immune response in the skin.

  • Coal Tar Preparations: Coal tar products can help slow down the excessive skin cell growth seen in psoriasis.

Light Therapy (Phototherapy)

  • UVB Phototherapy: Controlled exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) light can effectively reduce psoriasis symptoms.

  • PUVA Therapy: A combination of psoralen and UVA light therapy, mainly used for severe cases.

Systemic Medications

  • Oral Medications: Prescription medications may be used to treat psoriasis that is severe.

  • Biologics: These newer drugs target specific immune system components responsible for psoriasis.

Eczema Treatments

Emollients (Moisturisers):

  • Regular Application: Keeping the skin moist with emollients can help manage dry skin and prevent eczema flare-ups.

Topical Corticosteroids

  • Mild to Moderate Eczema: Low-strength corticosteroid creams or ointments can be applied to reduce inflammation and itching.

  • Severe Eczema: Higher-strength corticosteroids may be prescribed under medical supervision to treat eczema symptoms.

Topical Calcineurin Inhibitors

  • Non-steroidal creams or ointments: These non-steroidal creams are used to reduce inflammation in sensitive areas like the face and neck.

Antihistamines

  • Oral Antihistamines: These can help relieve itching and promote better sleep, especially if itching is disrupting you from getting a good night’s rest.

Wet Wrap Therapy:

  • This involves applying emollients and then covering the affected areas with wet bandages to provide additional moisture and relieve symptoms.

Both eczema and psoriasis can benefit from a holistic approach to treatment, which may include a combination of these options tailored to individual needs. Consulting with a healthcare provider or dermatologist is essential to determine the most effective treatment plan for your specific condition.

Topical treatment for eczema on hands.

Lifestyle Changes: Tips for Living with Psoriasis and Eczema

Living with psoriasis and eczema can be challenging, but there are several lifestyle changes and strategies that can help you manage and improve your quality of life while dealing with these skin conditions. Here are some practical tips for coping with psoriasis and eczema:

Psoriasis

  • Maintain Skin Moisture: Regularly apply moisturisers to keep your skin well-hydrated, which can help reduce itchy skin and discomfort.

  • Avoid Triggers: Identify and minimise factors that trigger psoriasis flare-ups, such as stress, infections, or certain medications.

  • Practice Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate psoriasis symptoms, so adopting stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can be beneficial.

  • Gentle Skin Care: Use mild, fragrance-free soaps and shampoos to avoid skin irritation, and pat your skin dry after bathing rather than rubbing it.

  • Sun Protection: While sunlight can benefit some with psoriasis, excessive exposure can worsen symptoms. Use sunscreen or protective clothing when needed.

Eczema

  • Regular Moisturising: Apply emollients or moisturisers frequently to maintain skin hydration and reduce the risk of eczema flares.

  • Identify Triggers: Keep a journal to track activities or foods that worsen eczema and try to avoid them.

  • Avoid Irritants: Stay away from harsh soaps, detergents, and perfumed products, as these can aggravate eczema-prone skin.

  • Short, Lukewarm Showers: Limit your bathing time and use lukewarm water to prevent the skin from drying out further.

  • Cotton Clothing: Wear loose-fitting, breathable cotton clothing to minimise irritation.

  • Allergen Management: If allergies are a trigger for your eczema, take steps to reduce allergen exposure in your environment.

  • Emotional Support: Living with eczema can be emotionally challenging. Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups to cope with the emotional aspects of the condition can be helpful.

In both cases of eczema and psoriasis, it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider or dermatologist to develop a comprehensive management plan tailored to your needs. These lifestyle changes, combined with proper medical treatment, can significantly improve your comfort and well-being while living with psoriasis and eczema. Remember that managing these conditions is an ongoing process, and patience and self-care are key elements of a successful long-term strategy.

Man applying sunscreen to prevent eczema flare ups.

Prevention Strategies: Minimising the Risk of Psoriasis and Eczema

While it’s not always possible to completely prevent eczema and psoriasis, there are proactive steps you can take to minimise the risk of developing these skin conditions or reduce their severity if you’re already affected. Here are some prevention strategies to consider:

Psoriasis Prevention

  • Stress Management: Since stress can trigger or worsen psoriasis flare-ups, adopting stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can be beneficial.

  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise routine, and a healthy weight can help support overall immune system function and reduce the risk of psoriasis.

  • Sun Protection: While sunlight can be therapeutic for some with psoriasis, excessive exposure can worsen symptoms. Use sunscreen and protective clothing when spending time outdoors.

  • Avoid Skin Injuries: Be cautious to prevent skin injuries, as cuts, burns, or other trauma to the skin can trigger psoriasis in susceptible individuals.

Eczema Prevention

  • Skin Moisturisation: Keep your skin well-moisturised with emollients to help maintain a healthy skin barrier and reduce the risk of eczema flare-ups.

  • Identifying Triggers: Keep a record of activities, foods, or environmental factors that seem to exacerbate your eczema, and take steps to avoid them.

  • Allergen Management: If allergies are a trigger for your eczema, consult with an allergist to identify specific allergens and develop strategies to minimise exposure.

  • Gentle Skin Care: Use mild, fragrance-free soaps and detergents to avoid skin irritation. Pat your skin dry after bathing rather than rubbing it.

  • Avoid Excessive Heat: Extreme heat and sweating can worsen eczema symptoms, so try to stay cool and avoid overheating.

  • Allergy Testing: Consider allergy testing to identify potential allergens that may be contributing to your eczema.

  • Humidifiers: In dry climates or during the winter months, using a humidifier in your home can add moisture to the air and help prevent skin dryness.

Remember that genetics play a significant role in both psoriasis and eczema, and you may not be able to completely eliminate the risk. However, by adopting these prevention strategies and working closely with healthcare professionals, you can reduce the likelihood of developing these skin conditions and enjoy healthier skin and overall well-being. If you have a family history of either condition or notice any unusual skin symptoms, consult a healthcare provider or dermatologist for early diagnosis and guidance on prevention and management.

Impact on Daily Life: Coping with Psoriasis and Eczema

Living with psoriasis and eczema can significantly affect an individual’s daily life, both physically and emotionally. These chronic skin conditions often come with a range of challenges that require coping strategies and support.

For many, the visible nature of psoriasis lesions can lead to feelings of embarrassment and insecurity. Additionally, the physical symptoms, such as itching and pain, can be disruptive, making everyday tasks more difficult. Coping with psoriasis often involves not only managing the physical symptoms but also addressing the emotional toll it can take.

Eczema, known for its intense itching and inflammation, can disrupt sleep and daily routines. Constant itching can be both physically uncomfortable and mentally exhausting, affecting one’s ability to focus and engage in daily activities. In severe cases, eczema may lead to social isolation and a reduced quality of life.

Both conditions may require ongoing medical treatment, lifestyle adjustments, and emotional support to help individuals cope effectively. Seeking guidance from dermatologists or support groups can provide valuable resources and strategies for managing the impact of psoriasis and eczema on daily life. It’s essential to remember that while these conditions can be challenging, they do not define a person’s worth or potential, and there are ways to lead fulfilling lives despite the challenges they present.

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