Psoriasis vs Eczema

Anyone with dry, itchy skin and prone to skin rashes has probably wondered if they have either psoriasis or eczema. Psoriasis vs eczema, it is easy to confuse these two common skin conditions, but they are distinctly different, despite their similar symptoms. Of course, only a dermatologist can tell you if you have either or which one. However, you can better understand each problem and have an idea of what to expect.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects about three percent of the U.S. population. In other words, about 7.5 million adults in this country.

Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease. This means the immune system triggers inflammation, but it’s unclear why. With this skin condition, the inflammation becomes raised plaques and scaly skin. When someone has psoriasis, their skin goes into overdrive.

psoriasis vs eczema

What Causes Psoriasis?

When asking psoriasis vs eczema, it is the cause that differentiates them. For some reason, the immune system triggers the production of skin cells to increase. The skin is constantly regenerating. Normal skin cells slough off in a month, and new cells replace them.

When you have psoriasis, new skin cells grow faster than the old ones die off. So, cells form every three or four days instead of new skin growing in one month. That causes them to pile up and create plaques. The plaques make it hard for the old skin to fall off, too, so you have new cells growing on top of old ones.

The result is thick, scaly patches of skin. For some, that skin becomes itchy and stings, too. Flare-ups usually appear on the knees, elbows, or scalp, causing thick, red or gray patches. It can appear anywhere on the body, though.

What Does Psoriasis Look Like?

Psoriasis symptoms include thick areas on the skin that form with psoriasis plaques. Skin plaques seem to lie flat on the skin, even though they are part of it. Some refer to them as silvery scales because they can look like fish scales.

The plaques can be small or large. They can be red or gray, too. There are different types of psoriasis, though, and the appearance can vary.

What Are the Different Types of Psoriasis?

The different types of psoriasis can vary in symptoms. They include

  • Plaque psoriasis – This is what many people think of when they hear the word psoriasis. It is the most common type and is characterized by skin plaques.
  • Nail psoriasis – As the name suggests, this affects the toe and fingernails, causing pitting and abnormal growth.
  • Guttate psoriasis – This form of psoriasis typically affects children. It results from a bacterial infection such as strep. It appears as small, scaly spots on the body shaped like tears.
  • Inverse psoriasis – Inverse psoriasis appears in skin creases and places with moisture and friction.
  • Pustular psoriasis – This form of skin condition is rare. It causes blisters to appear on the palms and soles of the feet.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis – This is the least common form of the condition and the most critical. It leads to large areas of skin peeling all over the body.

The treatment options are different for each form of this condition.

Is Psoriasis Contagious?

Psoriasis is a condition of the immune system, so it is not contagious. There are triggers for flare-ups, and each person can be different. You can not catch it from someone else. In other words, when you come in contact with something, it might trigger psoriasis to start. Some common triggers are:

  • Stress
  • Skin injury
  • Being sick
  • Weather changes
  • Allergies

The triggers vary from person to person.

Psoriasis vs Eczema: What is Life Like With Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic condition that people live with their whole lives. It can impact how they feel about themselves, and the plaques can make them self-conscious. As a result, people with this condition often try to cover it up with clothing. They tend to wear long sleeves and pants so it doesn’t show.

Psoriasis can affect other parts of the body, too. Some people develop psoriatic arthritis when they have this skin condition.

What is Psoriatic Arthritis?

When considering Psoriasis vs Eczema, think about what else is going on with your body, too. Psoriatic arthritis typically affects people with psoriasis. The cause of arthritis is the same as what leads to skin plaques – a malfunctioning immune system. The immune system begins to attack the joints, causing inflammation and pain. This form of arthritis can be debilitating.

What is Eczema?

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is in many ways more complex than psoriasis. The direct cause is very dry skin. However, many things cause dry skin, according to the National Eczema Association. So, there are several potential eczema causes, as well.

For some, dry skin is genetic. A weak barrier function in the skin tends to run in families. That means the skin is less able to hold in moisture and fight off invaders. It is more sensitive to environmental irritants, such as tobacco smoke.

Eczema may also be an allergic reaction. You might be sensitive to soaps, allergens, or weather changes. For example, some people have an eczema flare-up as soon as the weather turns cold. Things rubbing against the skin, like wool gloves, can trigger a flare-up, too.

It may also be a result of hormonal changes in women. Their symptoms may only appear around their period or if they get pregnant.

For many people with eczema, the key to managing their condition is identifying the triggers.

psoriasis vs eczema

What Does Eczema Look Like?

The symptoms of eczema include

  • Dry, cracked skin
  • Itchy skin
  • Blisters
  • Peeling skin
  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Oozing from the skin
  • Thicken skin

Eczema is extremely itchy. People with it tend to have scratch marks all over the affected area because of the intense itchiness. Even if they avoid scratching during the day, they may do it in their sleep. In severe cases, this makes them prone to infections, as well.

What Are the Different Types of Eczema?

When trying to identify psoriasis vs eczema, the type matters. There are seven different types of eczema:

  • Atopic dermatitis – This is the most common form and is characterized by dry, scaly skin.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema – Develops as small itchy blisters and lesions on the hands or feet.
  • Contact dermatitis – The eczema is triggered by something the body comes in contact with, such as wool.
  • Discoid eczema – A long form of eczema characterized by circular, itchy patches. The patches eventually crack and ooze.
  • Neurodermatitis – This condition has an unknown origin but results in large, thick patches of leathery skin with an intense itch.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis – Scaly patches that form mainly on the scalp. They can also appear on the face.
  • Stasis dermatitis – Occurs due to poor circulation in the legs.

Each type has a different origin; and some people develop more than one kind.

Skin Psoriasis Vs Eczema

Is Eczema Contagious?

Eczema is simply extremely dry skin, so not contagious. The rashes are prone to infection, which can be contagious. Frequent hand washing can make the condition worse, too.

Psoriasis vs Eczema: What is Life Like With Eczema?

Eczema can be very uncomfortable. It is very itchy, especially at the beginning of the breakout. When scratched, the skin breaks down, causing an open wound that may be further complicated by infection.

People with eczema often have other allergic conditions, such as

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Rhinitis

There is an especially strong connection between asthma and eczema. Both conditions also tend to run in families.

Psoriasis vs Eczema

Psoriasis vs eczema, in some cases, these two skin conditions can seem very similar. Eczema can develop a crusty appearance that may look like psoriasis without close inspection. Both conditions can appear anywhere you have skin, as well. Common places include the scalp and hands. They can be very difficult to tell apart, and you can have both.

What is the Difference Between Psoriasis and Eczema?

The most significant difference between these two conditions is the underlying cause.

Psoriasis causes are related to the immune system. The immune system malfunctions, and skin cells grow at an accelerated rate. As a result, the cells start to build up, and a plaque forms.

Eczema is much more difficult to pinpoint. There can be both genetic and environmental issues at play with this condition. Eczema tends to run in families, but you can still have it if it doesn’t.

Instead of being caused by a dysfunctional immune system, eczema may occur due to a problem with the protective layer on top of the skin. Triggers are environmental, like fragrances, or hormonal such as pregnancy. Cold or hot weather can cause an outbreak, as can an allergic reaction.

Skin Reaction

Psoriasis and eczema can look similar but don’t feel the same. Although psoriasis may come with a mild itch, it doesn’t compare to what those with eczema experience.

The itching sensation with eczema is so intense that people scratch in their sleep. They scratch the skin so hard it breaks open and bleeds. Unfortunately, that scratching also makes eczema prone to infection.


Psoriasis and eczema can both affect the following:

  • Scalp
  • Elbow
  • Knees
  • Buttocks
  • Face

People can also develop eczema on the back of their knees and inside elbows. A rash in those locations is one thing that makes the condition disincentive.


This is one area where these two conditions are similar. Both can be allergic reactions to an allergen like soap or detergents. Environmental factors can also be triggers, such as pet dander. Psoriasis can also occur due to the following:

  • Sunburn
  • Scratches
  • Vaccinations
  • Medications

These three things do not usually trigger eczema, though.

First Outbreak

Eczema is a condition that often affects children. Some people outgrow it. It is less common to develop it as an adult. If you have it as an adult, you probably had it as a child and maybe didn’t realize it.

Psoriasis tends to develop later in life. It can start between 15 and 35, although people get plaques earlier or later.

Treatment Plan

There can be different treatment options for each condition, as well. For mild cases of eczema, over-the-counter products like a topical corticosteroid are all it takes. Your healthcare provider might suggest specific skin care products like moisturizers and cleansers.

Mild to moderate eczema can also respond to unique home treatments. Old-school home treatment involves solid vegetable oil on the skin. The doctor may suggest you wrap affected limbs in plastic at night to make the treatment more effective.

They may try medications that affect the immune system to control it for severe outbreaks or a prescription-strength-topical steroid. Light therapy or phototherapy can be effective, too.

The psoriasis treatment can be similar. For instance, the healthcare provider might suggest a topical corticosteroid in mild cases. Light therapy and drug therapy are often necessary for a systemic psoriasis flare. A dermatology specialist might prescribe a biologic injectable drug.

Both conditions require some skin care basics to control them. Good skin hygiene goes a long way to keeping them at bay, especially moisturizing.

The key to figuring out which of these two skin diseases you might have is to see a dermatologist, like the specialists at Venice Avenue Dermatology. Otherwise, you are just guessing, which may make the problem worse. This is true even if eczema runs in your family.

The medical dermatology department at Venice Avenue Dermatology can pinpoint the cause, help identify the triggers and create a treatment plan to clear up your skin. We offer UV light therapy to treat both psoriasis and eczema. Both often respond well to this treatment. We also prescribe systemic or biologic medications, when appropriate.

Psoriasis and eczema can affect your quality of life, so let us help. If you are still wondering about psoriasis vs eczema, call our office today to make an appointment if you live in Venice, Sarasota, or the surrounding area in Florida.

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