Online Doctor

Eczema & Psoriasis

Eczema and psoriasis are common skin conditions that can leave the skin dry, cracked, inflamed, red and itchy.

They are usually long term conditions, but symptoms can be managed or even cleared completely with treatment.

Eczema and psoriasis are often treated with topical treatments and creams that soothe the affected area and can visibly reduce symptoms. 

How to tell the difference between psoriasis and eczema

At first glance, both eczema and psoriasis can present with similar symptoms in similarly affected areas, such as skin folds.

However a dermatologist or doctor can tell the difference between the two conditions based on the skin condition, how intense itching is, and where on the body it is.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that causes thick patches where dead cells build up. These patches look like scales and can be itchy and sore.

They can appear anywhere on the body, but most commonly show up on elbows, knees, lower back and the scalp.

Psoriasis affects approximately 2 in 100 people in the UK. While it typically starts in adults between the ages of 20-30, it can develop at any age, affecting women and men equally.

Psoriasis can vary from moderate psoriasis to severe psoriasis - for some people it's a mild irritation, for others it's debilitating.

Psoriasis is a long term autoimmune condition that comes in waves of no or mild symptoms, followed by bouts of severe symptoms.

Why does psoriasis happen?

Psoriasis is the result of an increased production of skin cells. In most people, skin cells are regenerated every 3-4 weeks, however in people with psoriasis, this process is expedited to just 3-7 days.

This fast skin cell growth results in a buildup of dead cells, causing dry, flaky, crusty scaly patches.

While the actual process is not fully understood, it's thought to be an issue related to the body's immune system, where it attacks healthy skin cells by mistake.

Psoriasis can be hereditary, although the precise nature of how it's genetic is not yet clear. And just because a family member suffers with severe psoriasis, doesn't mean you will too.

Most initial cases of psoriasis are triggered following a particular event.

Possible triggers include:

-a skin injury
-throat infection
-excessive alcohol
-using certain medicines such as lithium
-anti-inflammatory medicines such as NSAIDs i.e. ibuprofen

Psoriasis is not contagious and is not spread through touching another person's skin.

Symptoms of widespread psoriasis

Common signs and symptoms include:

-Red patches of flaky dry skin across the entire body, in particular around the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp, with skin covered in thick, crusty scales
-Dry cracked skin that is itchy, burning or sore
-Swollen joints
-Stiff joints
-Thickened nails

How to diagnose psoriasis

A health professional can ordinarily diagnose psoriasis simply by the appearance of the skin. In rare cases, a skin sample called a biopsy will be need to be taken and sent for testing.

If the GP suspects you have psoriatic arthritis, a complication of psoriasis, you might be referred to a rheumatologist.

What is eczema?

Eczema (also known as atopic eczema) is an inflammatory skin condition that causes skin to become red and inflamed, itchy, dry and blister.

There are several different types of eczema including atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis.

Eczema isn't contagious, but you are more at risk of developing the condition if you have asthma or allergies.

It usually begins in childhood, but anyone at any age can get it. When talking about an episode of eczema, people might refer to it as 'flare ups'.

Eczema affects women and men equally with up to 10-20% of the population having it. Around half of all children who suffer with severe eczema will grow out of it as they get older.