Psoriasis vs eczema – what’s the difference?

Psoriasis and eczema (atopic dermatitis) are two chronic conditions of the skin.

While they are both common skin problems and somewhat similar in nature, they are actually separate conditions.

And although psoriasis and eczema share some common physical symptoms, and even the treatments can be closely related, understanding the differences between them is important for proper diagnosis and the most effective treatment.

So let’s take a closer look at psoriasis vs eczema now…

Psoriasis vs eczema

It’s easy to confuse psoriasis and eczema because they both result in the same red, scaly rashes on the skin. And both of these skin disorders also involve immune system function.

However, psoriasis affects how skin cells are made while eczema increases the sensitivity of the skin cells to the environment. Triggers for eczema can include pets, chemical irritants, soaps and so on.

Psoriasis Vs Eczema - What's The Difference?

What’s the difference between psoriasis and eczema?

So what is the difference between eczema and psoriasis?

Well, firstly it’s important to note that both of these uncomfortable and unsightly skin issues are understood to be the result of a problem with immune system function.

In psoriasis, the white blood cells known as T cells appear to attack the skin, causing a reaction that results in an overproduction of skin cells. These excess cells rise to the surface of the skin quickly, resulting in scaly skin eruptions. Psoriasis frequently is seen in the scalp and neck areas and on fingernails and toenails, but it can be present on any areas of the body.

Eczema is a condition that is commonly seen among babies and children, usually occurring before a child is 5 years old. Having said that though, in many cases eczema continues to present itself into adulthood. There is also a strong correlation between those with eczema and those with allergies and asthma.

Like psoriasis, eczema can occur anywhere on the body, but this rash is most commonly seen on the hands and feet, elbows and knees, chest and around the eyes. When distinguishing between cases of eczema vs psoriasis, eczema is almost always very itchy, whereas psoriasis can sometimes be itchy, but not in all cases.

Symptoms of psoriasis

Plaque Psoriasis
Plaque Psoriasis

While the symptoms of psoriasis can vary among individuals, there are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Itching or burning skin.
  • Red, patchy skin covered by silver scales.
  • Dry, cracked, and often bleeding skin.
  • Unhealthy looking, thick nails with ridges or defined pits.
  • Stiff and swollen joints, association with arthritis

Affected individuals can experience flare-ups of psoriasis, and might even experience remission of the condition.

Symptoms of eczema

Eczema - Atopic Dermatitis
Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Common signs and symptoms of eczema generally seen among those who suffer from the condition include:

  • Reddish or brownish patches of skin that occur on various parts of the body but commonly on the hands and feet, elbows and knees, chest, eyelids. Infants often have patches of eczema on their faces and scalp (cradle cap).
  • Itchy skin that can be severe and more prevalent at nighttime.
  • The raised rash bumps can ooze and become raw and then crusty with scratching.
  • Skin is often dry, sensitive, cracked and scaly.

Like psoriasis, those with eczema can experience flare-ups and the condition is often worse in the winter and in drier climates.

Diagnosis of psoriasis vs eczema

Your doctor will thoroughly evaluate your symptoms to make a proper diagnosis of psoriasis vs eczema. Usually a diagnosis can be made with observation of symptoms in the office without a need for further skin testing.

Occasionally it is difficult to determine which of the skin conditions is present. One of the indicators that your doctor will look for that signifies psoriasis is the presence of pitting on the nails.

Managing psoriasis and eczema

Knowing the triggers for both psoriasis and eczema is an important part of effective management.

Psoriasis flare-ups tends to be preceded by physiological factors including skin injuries or infections, certain medication, alcohol and smoking. Psoriasis sufferers may go into remission for long periods of time.

Eczema, on the other hand, tends to be brought on by various environmental or contact factors including detergents, certain clothing, and specific allergens for each individual.

Treatment of psoriasis and eczema

There are some similarities in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, including corticosteroids for either of these conditions.

Eczema often responds well to the use of antihistamines to reduce inflammation and related itching.

Psoriasis often responds more favorably to calcipotriene, an artificial form of vitamin D, along with topical retinoids, known to slow the growth of skin cells.

And you can also use natural treatments for both these conditions. You can read my guide to the best essential oils for eczema here. And here’s my guide to using essential oils for psoriasis treatment and some tips for managing psoriasis without drugs.

If you suffer from any of these uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms, it is important to talk with your doctor. Once you have an accurate diagnosis, your doctor can suggest a proper treatment plan to help you effectively manage your condition.


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