Arguably, eczema and psoriasis are two of the most common skin conditions seen today. However, because they are so similar, it is really easy to get them muddled up – even some doctors accidentally misdiagnose patients with one or the other on occasion. If you are experiencing symptoms, then it does make sense to learn all you can about the two conditions before you head to the doctor. Read on for more information.
What Causes Them?
Eczema and psoriasis do both have similar causes. There is a genetic component to both, and they are both linked to the body’s immune system. Psoriasis occurs when the immune system overcompensates and produces too many new skin cells too quickly. The skin cells then begin to pile up, which is what forms the characteristic scales or plaques. They tend to be itchy and dry and can even be quite painful.
Eczema, on the other hand, is often due to an over-reactive immune system which tends to respond to external and internal triggers by causing inflammation. In eczema suffers, the skin’s barrier is generally weaker, which leaves it vulnerable to irritants. As mentioned above, genetics do play a role in both conditions, and a family history of one or the other is likely to increase your chances. They are also both likely to be triggered by stress, weather changes and allergens or irritants.
At What Age Do They First Begin to Manifest?
Truthfully, both eczema and psoriasis can begin to manifest at any age. That being said, there are ages when you are more likely to see it for the first time. Most people with eczema tend to be born with it or first show symptoms as an infant. Now, not everyone who is born with eczema will have it their whole lives; some people do grow out of it. On the other hand, psoriasis tends to manifest for the first time in the later teenage years. Although this isn’t always the case, it can emerge in anyone from the ages of fifteen to thirty-five. After the initial manifestation, it is unlikely that those with psoriasis will ever get rid of it; it tends to be a life-long condition.
What Do They Look Like?
Some forms of eczema and psoriasis are often mistaken for each other because they can be similar in appearance. However, there are notable differences between the two. Eczema is often characterised by fine scales, general dryness and poorly outlined red blotches – it also may or may not include open sores. Eczema can affect the whole body, but it is most often seen in the extremities, like the hands and feet, as well as skin folds like the crooks of the elbow or behind the knees.
Psoriasis, on the other hand, is often neater, confined to specific areas and the scales themselves are clearly outlined and often have larger white scales on them. Psoriasis can also be seen anywhere on the body, although it is commonly seen on the outer elbow, knees and scalp. Of course, there are different forms of both eczema and psoriasis. Luckily, there are guides on the internet that can help you to tell them apart. For example, this resource from Patient includes photos of the different forms of psoriasis, which is incredibly useful when trying to work out which one you have.
As mentioned above, there is, unfortunately, currently no cure for either skin condition; however, there are a number of treatment options which can help you to manage them. In order to come up with the best care plan for you and your specific requirements, you will need to work with your doctor, who may refer you to a dermatologist.
For both conditions, your treatment options are likely to consist of moisturising emollients, which can often be found over the counter in a pharmacy. For flare-ups, you are likely to be prescribed ointments and creams, which will increase potency. Topical corticosteroids are a common option; however, they can have adverse effects depending on your frequency of use because using them for too long can mean that your body builds up a reliance and is no longer able to produce its own cortisol which then means that your skin gets worse without them, creating a vicious cycle. Your doctor might also recommend light therapy, although there are a number of criteria that you will need to meet in order to qualify.
While there are certainly similarities between the two conditions, there are also several distinct differences that you should be aware of. Regardless of whether you have psoriasis or eczema, it can really take a toll on your mental and physical health simply because you feel like it is noticeable or affecting your appearance in some way. This is why managing the condition is so important; it helps to ensure your physical health as well as your mental health.
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