Suffering from itchy patches of red, dry skin? You may have psoriasis or eczema.
What are Psoriasis and Eczema?
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition in which the body produces too many skin cells. In plaque psoriasis, the most common type, the extra skin cells accumulate on the skin’s surface to create a rough, scaly, itchy texture.
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that cause dry, irritated, itchy skin. Often, eczema occurs in children, who typically outgrow it. However, it may develop in people of any age.
How do you tell them apart?
They can feel different: While both cause itchiness, psoriasis is more likely to cause burning or stinging.
They can look different: Both cause scaly skin, but psoriasis results in the skin becoming thicker and more inflamed than eczema does.
The locations can be different: Often, eczema surfaces on areas of skin that bend, such as behind the knees or on the elbow, though both skin conditions occur elsewhere on the body.
Psoriasis and eczema are easy to confuse, and sometimes even doctors have trouble telling the difference between the two. For that reason, a board-certified dermatologist should perform a skin exam. Dr. Amy Watson at Pensacola Dermatology can discuss your symptoms and make a diagnosis.
Types of Psoriasis and their Symptoms
- Plaque psoriasis. The most common form of psoriasis usually appears on elbows, knees and scalp. It causes silver scales and red patches.
- Inverse psoriasis. This condition causes highly irritated patches of shiny skin that usually occur below the arms, in the genital area or under the breasts.
- Erythrodermic psoriasis. A very rare and dangerous form of psoriasis, erythrodermic psoriasis causes widespread red skin and large patches of shedding scales.
- Guttate psoriasis. Children are more likely than adults to suffer from this type of psoriasis, which causes tiny pink spots on the upper body and legs.
- Pustular psoriasis. Adults are more likely than children to get pustular psoriasis, which causes rough red skin and pus-filled bumps. Though this condition can develop anywhere on the body, many patients experience it on their hands or feet.
- Scalp psoriasis. Scalp psoriasis causes scaly red patches on the scalp. The scales often itch but and can cause temporary hair loss, but sometimes no major symptoms occur.
- Nail psoriasis. This kind of psoriasis affects the nails only. It can soften them, causing indentations and other damage, including crumbling.
Common Areas for Psoriasis
Risk Factors of Psoriasis
- Family history of psoriasis.
- Weakened immune system.
- Previous skin injuries.
- Use of certain medications, including lithium.
- Smoking tobacco.
- Alcohol use.
- Heart disease and metabolic syndrome.
Common Psoriasis Triggers
If left untreated, psoriasis can cause one of the following conditions:
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis Diagnosis and Treatment
Make an appointment at Pensacola Dermatology, where a board-certified dermatologist can perform a skin exam. In rare cases, a skin biopsy may also be necessary.
There is no “one size fits all” solution for psoriasis. The treatment will depend on the type of psoriasis, as well as the patient’s symptoms and individual needs. Treatment types include the following:
- Topical treatments, including solutions, lotions, creams and ointments that you apply directly to the affected parts of your skin.
- Light therapy, which delivers ultraviolet A, ultraviolet B, or a combination of the two, to your skin to encourage healing. This may also be combined with other treatments, such as topical treatments.
- Systemic treatments, including oral tablets, capsules and injected substances.
Psoriasis has no cure and is likely to return. However, treatments can significantly reduce your symptoms and the number of flare-ups. If diagnosed early, psoriasis can be treated before the worst symptoms develop. Contact Pensacola Dermatology for an appointment.
Types of Eczema
- Allergic contact dermatitis, an itchy inflamed rash that develops after an allergic reaction.
- Dyshidrotic eczema, small fluid-filled blisters on the hands.
- Nummular eczema, round lesions that can start after an injury.
- Neurodermatitis, which causes an itch-scratch cycle that results in rough leathery skin.
- Seborrheic dermatitis, which causes scaly, itchy skin on the scalp.
- Dry skin.
- Inflamed red skin.
- Rough skin.
- Severe itching.
- Dark skin patches.
- Thickened skin that grows rough or leathery.
- Oozing skin wounds.
- Swollen patches of skin.
Common Triggers of Eczema
The cause of eczema is not known, though the following risk factors may trigger it:
- Family history of eczema.
- Extreme temperatures.
- Low humidity.
- Female gender.
- Presence of food or pollen allergies.
- Hormonal changes.
- Bath products with additives.
- Strenuous exercise.
- Exposure to some metals, such as nickel.
- Scratchy fabrics, including wool.
Eczema Diagnosis and Treatment
Make an appointment at Pensacola Dermatology, where a board-certified dermatologist can perform a skin exam. A doctor may need to do a skin patch test to diagnose your eczema. Once diagnosed, treatments may include the following:
- Topical treatments, including corticosteroids and emollients (moisturizers).
- Oral medication, including antihistamines and daily steroids.
- Phototherapy, which involves controlled use of ultraviolet light.
Eczema care includes not only prescribed treatments but also lifestyle changes, such as resisting scratching and avoiding triggers.
Every time an eczema flare-up occurs, keep track of the time of day, the weather, what you have eaten that day, and any other possible contributing factors. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid an eczema breakout.