Skin rashes are annoying, uncomfortable and unsightly – but worse than that, they can be tricky to diagnose. Learn about the differences between eczema and psoriasis so that you can ask all the right questions when you visit your doctor.
Eczema Signs & Symptoms
Nearly everyone with eczema experiences an itchy rash, but beyond that, the symptoms vary from person to person. Most patients will notice the itching sensation before the rash appears, but in rare cases, the rash flares up before the itching starts.
Eczema most commonly appears as dry, flaky skin on the elbows, knees, hands, neck or face. In children, the rash often appears in creases – particularly in the bends of the knees and elbows. If you scratch at the eczema too much, the dryness and flaking will worsen, sometimes turning into an open sore.
Eczema v. Psoriasis
Even though eczema and psoriasis look similar, there are several subtle differences between these two conditions. Eczema typically starts during childhood while psoriasis often doesn’t emerge until the teenage or adult years. Psoriasis more commonly occurs on the scalp, and it typically results in skin that looks scaly rather than flaky.
How Does a Doctor Tell the Difference?
Eczema can be tricky to diagnose because there are few ways to test for this condition. Your doctor will collect a family history to determine if allergies are common, and he or she may be able to conduct blood tests or an allergy test.
For psoriasis, the doctor will need to examine your skin carefully, and possibly take a small sample to perform a skin biopsy.
What are Your Treatment Options?
Patients with eczema can often manage their condition with a few lifestyle changes. Try taking short, warm showers, use mild soaps and apply plenty of moisturizer to prevent over-drying your skin. For some people, corticosteroids, antihistamines or prescription-strength moisturizers can work. In extreme cases, UV light therapy has also provided some relief.
Psoriasis shares some of the same treatment options as eczema. You may be asked to try moisturizers, corticosteroids or UV light treatments. In addition to these remedies, your doctor may also recommend prescription vitamin D creams, drugs like anthralin or topical retinoid creams.
If you’re experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of either of these conditions, make an appointment with your doctor. Once the cause is diagnosed, you’ll be able to discuss which treatment options are right for you.