Psoriasis and eczema have several symptoms in common.
Pop quiz: Can you tell the difference between psoriasis and eczema? As if these chronic skin issuesweren’t frustrating enough, they can also be incredibly confusing. “Both eczema and psoriasis cause red, scaly areas on the skin, and to the untrained eye, they can look similar,” board-certified dermatologist Alan J. Parks, M.D., tells SELF. Here’s how to figure out which is which, along with the best ways to actually treat these annoying skin conditions.
Psoriasis comes in many forms, each with it’s own set of symptoms.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects about 7.5 million Americans, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It happens when the skin cells go through their life cycle more quickly than normal. Typically, it takes about a month for skin cells to regenerate, but in people with psoriasis, this process happens every three to four days, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The most common type of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, per the Mayo Clinic. It appears as raised, red patches with a silvery white coating of dead skin cells, and is most often found on the scalp, elbows, knees, lower back, and genitals, but it can show up anywhere on your body. Unfortunately, the patches may be painful and itchy, and are liable to cracking and bleeding.
There are other, less common forms of psoriasis. Guttate psoriasis, which often begins in childhood or young adulthood and can be triggered by a strep infection, appears as small, droplike lesions. Inverse psoriasis shows up as a smooth, shiny, red rash in body folds, such as under the arms or breasts. Pustular psoriasis, which can present on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, is characterized by noninfectious, pus-filled blisters, according to John Hopkins Medicine. The most severe, and rarest, type of psoriasis is erythrodermic psoriasis, which results in widespread, fiery redness over most of the body. It can cause severe itching and pain, and if you think you’re having an erythrodermic psoriasis flare-up, you should seek medical attention immediately. (FYI: You can find more information and photos of each type from the Mayo Clinic here.)
Eczema is much more common than psoriasis, and it also has a few different ways of showing up on the skin.
According to the most recent estimate available, over 30 million Americans have some form of eczema, which is really the collective name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become red, itchy, and inflamed. “When most people say ‘eczema,’ they usually mean atopic dermatitis,” Todd Minars, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at University of Miami School of Medicine, tells SELF. The AAD calls atopic dermatitis “the itch that rashes” to emphasize how uncomfortable this condition’s characteristic dry, red, scaly patches can be. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis can include dry, itchy patches of skin that are red to brownish-gray, small raised bumps, and cracked or scaly skin. (FYI: You can find more information and photos of eczema from the Mayo Clinic here.)
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