This month, we'd like to begin taking a closer look at two skin conditions that are sometimes confused because of similar symptoms: psoriasis and eczema. The two conditions often present in similar ways, but there are also key differences in symptoms.
What Is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic condition. It is defined by the Mayo Clinic as "a common skin disease that affects the life cycle of skin cells. Psoriasis causes cells to build up rapidly on the surface of the skin, forming thick silvery scales and itchy, dry, red patches that are sometimes painful."
People's experiences with psoriasis can range from the disease being a mild nuisance that flares up once in a while to a debilitating, painful, and disfiguring condition that can lead to depression and social isolation and that can be associated with other serious health conditions.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
- Red patches of skin covered with silvery scales
- Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
- Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
- Itching, burning or soreness
- Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
- Swollen and stiff joints
What Is Eczema?
Eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, is defined by the Mayo Clinic as "an itchy inflammation of your skin. It's a long-lasting (chronic) condition that may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever."
Eczema affects about 10 to 20 percent of infants and 3 percent of adults and children in the United States. While treatment can be effective and most children with eczema outgrow the condition by age 10, the itchy skin and other symptoms characteristic of eczema can sometimes affect children's sleep to the extent that school performance suffers. Asthma and allergies often follow or come with the presence of eczema, which may be exacerbated by the same triggers that set off asthma and allergy attacks.
Symptoms of Eczema
According to WebMD, the symptoms of eczema include the following:
- Red to brownish-gray colored patches
- Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
- Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
- Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
- Raw, sensitive skin from scratching
Key Differences Between Psoriasis and Eczema
While psoriasis and eczema may seem the same, some key differences, particularly in symptoms and associated diseases, help make the conditions discernible.
Nail abnormalities are associated with psoriasis but not with eczema. This fact makes this symptom key in being able to tell the two conditions apart. Both the toenails and fingernails can be affected by psoriasis, becoming pitted, ridged, or thickened. Nails may also become discolored and may sometimes even separate from the nail bed or crumble.
The diseases associated with either psoriasis or eczema are another distinguishing factor. Psoriasis can be accompanied by arthritis and joint pain or swelling. Psoriasis can also be associated with liver dysfunction, as either a cause or effect of psoriasis. On the other hand, eczema is more closely linked to asthma, hay fever, and other allergic conditions like dermatitis. The presence of these associated diseases may help point to which skin condition is present if the presentation of symptoms themselves makes it hard to tell whether psoriasis or eczema is at play.
"The most simple, natural remedy for mild to moderate eczema is prevention through moisturizing. However, slathering on any old lotion at any time won't necessarily provide relief"
These are some of the most common differences between psoriasis and eczema. Of course, when it comes to diagnosis, treatment, and awareness of potential complications, it's important to distinguish between psoriasis and eczema. (We should also note here that if either of these skin conditions is suspected, it's important to go see a doctor.)
Interestingly, however, psoriasis and eczema may share some of the same underlying causes and triggers. Furthermore, many of the same products and methods used to manage both psoriasis and eczema are the same. Tune in next month when we explore the similarities between psoriasis and eczema.