We offer products that we think are useful to our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here is our process.
Several health conditions can cause dry, scaly skin. Psoriasis and eczema, for example, can cause symptoms so similar that it can be difficult to tell the difference.
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system causes skin cells to grow faster than usual and causes dead cells to build up on the skin’s surface instead of falling away.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, causes swelling, dryness, rashes, and itching. Health professionals still don’t know the cause.
Both conditions can cause red, irritated, and itchy skin, but they have different causes and treatments. In the following, we examine the similarities and differences in detail.
symptoms of psoriasis
There are different types of psoriasis, and symptoms may vary. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type and accounts for 80-90% of psoriasis cases.
Plaque psoriasis causes areas of thick, raised skin called plaques. These areas may be:
- different sizes
It is important to note that psoriasis can occur differently depending on the color of a person’s skin. An inexperienced doctor may have difficulty making a diagnosis for this reason.
For example, on white skin, psoriasis can cause red spots, while on dark skin, it can cause gray, purple, or ashy patches. Psoriasis can be more severe if the skin is colored.
Learn more about the different types of psoriasis and their symptoms here.
symptoms of eczema
Eczema is most common in babies and children, but can affect teens and adults. There are different types of eczema, but some common symptoms include:
- dry skin
- Rashes in the elbows, behind the knees, and on the face, hands and feet
Learn more about the different types of eczema and their symptoms here.
treatment of psoriasis
Certain factors can trigger psoriasis episodes or worsen ongoing ones.
Some examples of these triggers include:
- , dry, cold weather
- Sunburn and hot weather
- excessive alcohol consumption
, certain medications, such as lithium, and some medicines for high blood pressure
. Triggers can help alleviate symptoms.
A person may also be able to alleviate mild to moderate discomfort and reduce dryness and itching by keeping the skin clean and hydrated. It is best to avoid harsh soaps and very hot water.
A doctor may prescribe any of the following medications to treat moderate to severe psoriasis:
- Topical corticosteroids: These medicinal ointments or creams reduce inflammation and itching.
- Anthraline: This topical medication aims to slow the accelerated growth of skin cells.
- Coal tar: This topical product may help reduce inflammation and flaking. Over-the-counter and prescription versions are available.
- Salicylic acid: This is a component of medical shampoos and topical solutions. It can remove skin flakiness, which may help other medications work better.
- Synthetic vitamin D creams and solutions: Prescription vitamin D creams contain calcipotriene and calcitriol. They can flatten raised areas, slow down skin cell growth, and remove flakiness.
- Topical retinoids: Retinoids are a form of vitamin A that can slow the growth of skin cells.
Light therapy or phototherapy is another treatment for psoriasis. This includes controlled exposure to UV light, which slows skin cell growth and reduces inflammation.
When topical treatments don’t work, oral and injectable medications are available. These include oral retinoids, methotrexate (Trexall), cyclosporine (Gengraf), and immunomodulating medicines such as apremilast (Otezla).
A doctor may also prescribe biological medications. These combat the cause of psoriasis by targeting the immune system. Examples of biological medications for psoriasis include:
- Adalimumab (Humira)
- ustekinumab (Stelara)
- ixekizumab (Taltz)
- Guselkumab (Tremfya)
Eczema is a persistent condition that may improve or worsen over time. It tends to affect children in greater numbers than adults, and some children may “outgrow” their eczema.
A person can get by without symptoms for some time and then have a flare-up. Many factors can trigger relapses, including allergic reactions. For people with eczema, avoiding known allergens can help prevent flare-ups.
Exposure to dust can also lead to eczema. Dust covers on pillows and mattresses and frequent dusting can also be helpful.
Dust covers are available online.
Other strategies to reduce or prevent eczema include:
- Avoiding harsh soaps and heavily scented products
- that don’t last long, hot baths or showers
- Applying topical corticosteroid creams to itchy areas
- , taking an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (histergan)
- Apply cool, moist compresses to the skin to reduce itching
- and take steps to reduce stress, such as through meditation, yoga, or tai chi
- avoid extremely hot temperatures as perspiration can worsen symptoms
Fragrance-free, soft soaps are available online.
A person can also reduce symptoms of eczema by keeping their skin clean, moisturized, and dry.
Moisturizers for dry, itchy skin are available online.
If the eczema is severe and does not respond to home treatments, a doctor may prescribe medicinal creams and ointments to reduce symptoms and their occurrence.
In addition to topical corticosteroid creams, the doctor may prescribe calcineurin inhibitors. Examples include tacrolimus ointment and pimecrolimus cream. However, a person should use them with caution as they carry warnings about a possible risk of cancer.
Excessive itching can break the skin and become infected. In this case, the person may need to apply a prescription antibiotic cream or take an oral antibiotic.
A doctor may recommend treating some cases of eczema with:
- methotrexate (Trexall)
- Cyclosporine (Gengraf)
- Azathioprine (Imuran)
- Dupilumab (Dupixent)
A person can also benefit from:
- bleach baths
- wet wraps
- consistently moisturizing
It is important to see a doctor before trying these treatments.
If scratching while sleeping is a problem, wearing soft gloves can help. Soft gloves are available online.
Causes of eczema
Health professionals don’t know the cause of eczema, but they usually occur in families. The following are some examples of triggers that can cause eczema to worsen:
- hormonal changes
- materials such as wool or synthetic fabrics
- allergic reactions
- , cold, dry weather
- animal skin
- dust mites
- sharp or strongly scented soap, cleanser, or shampoo
Causes of psoriasis
Psoriasis is caused by an autoimmune mechanism, and genetics plays a role.
In addition, certain fungi and viruses, such as the human papilloma virus, commonly known as HPV, are associated with psoriasis. To understand exactly how further research is needed.
Can anyone have psoriasis and eczema
It is possible to have both conditions and a person may need to use different treatments for each condition.
A 2014 study included participants with eczema and psoriasis The researchers found various genes in skin tissue that are affected by each condition, and they say identifying the “molecular signature” of psoriasis and eczema could help doctors diagnose each condition more definitively.
Conditions that cause similar symptoms
Examples of other conditions that may resemble some manifestations of eczema and psoriasis include:
- Foot contact dermatitis
- Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as a “cradle cap” in infants
If a person has skin symptoms and the cause is unclear, they should seek medical advice.
Ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection that causes a circular rash under the skin. Antifungal drugs can treat it.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that is not contagious. It often causes thick, raised areas of skin that have a different color, texture, or both.
Eczema is also not contagious. It can be triggered by external factors such as stress or scented products. It can occur in many ways, but it often looks like a discolored, dry, itchy rash.
Psoriasis and eczema may respond to oral, topical, or injected medications.
Psoriasis and eczema are different health conditions that can have similar symptoms. The two have different causes and treatments.
However, using topical medications, avoiding triggers, and cleansing and moisturizing the skin can help alleviate the symptoms of one or both of these health problems.