Differences and Similarities Between Eczema and Psoriasis

by Alisha Bridges Patient Advocate

Many ask, “What are the differences and similarities between eczema and psoriasis? If you aren’t a professional it can be difficult to tell the two apart. But they are, in fact, two different diseases of the skin. Yet, countless times, people have asked if I have eczema, especially when I was growing up and psoriasis was less known. Let’s review the differences and similarities between them:

Crowd of people.

How Many People are Affected?

A person is five times more likely to be affected by eczema than psoriasis. The National Eczema Foundation states that 30 million Americans may have eczema (emphasis on “may”). According to the NPF, 7.5 million people in the U.S. have psoriasis. The disheartening part is many are misdiagnosed because these conditions can look similar and have the same side effects.

Woman itching her arm.

What’s Your Type?

There are five types of psoriasis. They include plaque (the most common), inverse, guttate, pustular, and erythrodermic. Meanwhile, there are 8 different types of eczema. They include atopic dermatitis, hand eczema, contact dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, dyshidrotic dermatitis, nummular eczema, neurodermatitis, and stasis dermatitis. Each one is classified based upon appearance, placement on the body, and symptoms.

Pointing to elbow rash.

Psoriasis and the Immune System

Psoriasis is caused by an over-reactive immune system affecting T-cells, which causes the body to produce skin cells it really doesn’t need. These skin cells are being produced so quickly, the body does not have time to shed them effectively. Therefore plaques of dead, itchy, dry, and inflamed skin appear on the body. I am talking about plaque psoriasis, the most common form, but there are others that cause different symptoms.

Woman itching her neck.

Eczema, Is it an Autoimmune disease?

Doctors have found that eczema is also caused by a defect in the immune system, but not in the same way as psoriasis. Homeopathic Doctor Todd Hoover explains: “In reality, Eczema is technically not truly a ‘Skin Disease.’ Eczema is predominantly an immune system disorder,” one characterized by over-reaction of an allergic nature. Research is ongoing to determine what part of the immune system is causing eczema.

Man sweating outside.

What’s the Cause?

For many with psoriasis, the onset of sickness, stress, or environmental factors causes it to trigger. More research is being done to narrow down the exact causes, but they can vary between people. Some have even reported having a psoriasis flare after eating certain foods. Eczema is usually caused by an allergic reaction due to items placed directly onto the skin or environmental factors. Just like psoriasis, eczema can be triggered by temperature, sweat, foods, and hormones. The causes of both conditions of the skin are very similar.

Squeezing ointment onto finger.

Treatment Options for the Diseases

The main treatment options available for eczema are oral and topical. Psoriasis also has topicals and meds by mouth, but there are more effective treatments such as biologics which are showing improvement by 75 to 80 percent. Some medicines work for one disease but not the other. In fact, some doctors can tell which disease an individual has by the failure or success rate of the drugs prescribed. Internal drugs are used to suppress the over-reactive immune system in psoriasis sufferers. Phototherapy can be used for both diseases as well.

Woman looking out a window.

Quality of Life

For both psoriasis and eczema sufferers, the quality of life can severely be affected, since the conditions are such visible diseases. They can cause depression, effect emotional health, and alter the way individuals go about day-to-day life.

Alisha Bridges
Meet Our Writer
Alisha Bridges

Alisha Bridges has dealt with psoriasis since 7 years old after a bad case of chicken pox triggered her disease to spread on over 90% of her body. For years she hid in shame afraid of what people would think of such a visible disease. She has suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks due to psoriasis. Years ago Alisha wrote a letter entitled “My Suicide Letter.” The letter was not about actually killing herself but killing parts of her like low self-esteem, fear, and shame so she could truly live to her fullest potential. This proclamation catapulted her into psoriasis and patient advocacy. Following this letter she created a blog entitled Being Me In My Own Skin where she gives intimate details of what it’s like to live with psoriasis. Alisha is a community ambassador for the National Psoriasis Foundation and has served her community in countless ways to help give a better understanding of what’s it’s like to live with psoriasis. Her life motto is the following: “My purpose is to change the hearts of people by creating empathy and compassion for those the least understood through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and dermatology.” Alisha is also a Social Ambassador for the HealthCentral Skin Health Facebook page.