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Is it Eczema or Psoriasis?

Medically reviewed by Bari Cunningham, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on January 13, 2023

Eczema and psoriasis are two skin conditions that can cause very similar symptoms. They mostly consist of an itchy, red rash on the skin. If you’ve been suffering from such a rash, you probably want relief as soon as possible. But if you can’t match your symptoms to a particular condition, how can you treat it? Here are the differences and similarities between eczema and psoriasis, and how to take care of both of them.


Symptoms of eczema versus psoriasis


Psoriasis and eczema both result in inflamed, red, itchy, and peeling skin that can affect any part of the body. But psoriasis differs from eczema in that it causes your skin to feel hot or swollen. In addition, psoriasis may cause white scales on the skin, unlike eczema. Finally, the itching caused by a psoriasis rash is typically less severe than that of an eczema rash.


Causes of eczema vs psoriasis


Eczema can appear out of nowhere. Some specialists think that environmental (such as foods or allergies), genetic or even immune factors are responsible for eczema, but there’s no defined cause of it. 


Psoriasis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases hijack the body’s immune system, causing it to malfunction. Although there are theories, to date, their cause is unknown


However, both can be treated.


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Psoriasis - Treatment

Psoriasis - Treatment

Treating eczema vs psoriasis


Psoriasis and eczema are both commonly treated via topical medications (skin creams). But an eczema cream might not work for psoriasis and vice versa. That’s why it’s important to get a diagnosis before applying any sort of cream to the affected area. 


Both conditions can also be treated by a method called light therapy (phototherapy). Light therapy involves shining a controlled amount of ultraviolet light on your skin to ease symptoms. It can also improve the skin’s ability to fight bacteria. One type of light therapy for psoriasis doesn’t involve a machine–instead, it simply requires you to get more sunlight. Your doctor will decide which method is right for you.


Symptoms of psoriasis and eczema can be relieved through oral medications as well. Sometimes an over-the-counter medication might do the trick, but if your condition is severe, you may need to take systemic medication. Systemic medications reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system.


Another type of treatment for either psoriasis or eczema is called biologic medication. This is given intravenously (into a vein) and like systemic medication, can reduce inflammation.


Your doctor may recommend a combination of multiple treatments.


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Eczema in Children - Moisturizer

Eczema in Children - Moisturizer

I have either eczema or psoriasis. What should I do?


Most importantly, you’ll want to see a doctor. Only a medical professional can diagnose your skin condition, even if you think you know which one you have. After you’re diagnosed, you and your doctor will decide on a course of treatment. 


Written by Natan Rosenfeld

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