Have an itch you just can't scratch? Skin red and irritated? Then you may have two of the most common signs of psoriasis or eczema. As with any skin condition, you'll need to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis, but the two can be difficult to tell apart.
To ensure your doctor has the correct information to make a diagnosis and prescribe the right course of treatment, it pays to be as well informed as possible. These are some of the major differences between these two conditions.
The underlying cause
Eczema is a term used to describe a set of skin conditions caused by dry skin, and characterised by intense itching. It's an inflammatory response to contact with an irritant or allergen.
Psoriasis is a more precisely defined condition, where a genetic autoimmune condition causes skin cells to multiply and grow too quickly, resulting in characteristic plaques.
How does your skin look and feel?
Eczema causes an itching so intense you may actually scratch until it bleeds. Psoriasis, on the other hand, tends to make your skin feel as if it's being stung or burned - some people describe the sensation as like being bitten by ants.
The appearance of the two conditions is also different. Where eczema causes skin to look red, cracked and very dry, it may also present as fluid filled bumps or weeping blisters. Psoriasis causes the skin to thicken and form plaques that look silvery and scaly.
Eczema is most common on your inner elbows and knees, wrist and ankles and anywhere where your body bends. Psoriasis is most common on knees and elbows, the back and the scalp.
What age are you?
Eczema is most common in babies and young children, though it is possible to get eczema as an adult, particularly if you have thyroid disease, are experiencing hormonal changes, suffer with allergies like hay fever or have very dry skin. Psoriasis is most common between the ages of 15 and 35, and 50 to 60. A flare up can be triggered by medications such as lithium and beta-blockers, or by a sunburn or a scratch. Both conditions can flare up as a result of stress.
Neither eczema or psoriasis can be cured, but your doctor can advice a course of treatment to control your symptoms. So if you're worried about that red, itchy skin, get it checked as soon as possible.
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