Eczema vs. Psoriasis: What’s the Difference?

What if something scary was happening to your body and you didn’t even know what it was?

That happens every day for people struggling with skin issues. Sometimes, the issue may be as simple as a rash. Other times, though, it may be something much more serious like eczema or psoriasis. Skin problems not only indicate deeper systemic issues, but also have a significant psychological impact causing depression and anxiety in many people.

Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to spot or treat these skin conditions. In fact, most people don’t even know the difference between them. And until you know the difference, you cannot begin the path to wellness.

So, what is the difference between eczema vs psoriasis? How can you spot these conditions, and what should you do to treat them? Keep reading to discover the answers!

What Is Eczema?

Before you can learn the real difference between eczema vs psoriasis, you need to know more about each individual condition. And that means we need to start with a simple question: what is eczema, exactly?

The short answer is that eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is a skin condition in which the surface of your skin can become itchy, dry, and painful. Eczema often leads to blisters and rashes, and it can make your skin look red and inflamed.

Eczema most commonly occurs initially in children between the ages of 3-6 months and typically affects face, arms, legs, and stomach. In adults eczema more commonly affects eyelids, neck, hands, and joint folds. 

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What Causes Eczema?

Everyone who experiences the itchy skin of eczema asks the same question: “how did this happen?” Unfortunately, figuring out the exact cause of eczema may be more difficult than you first imagined.

Some people are simply predisposed to get eczema, and all it takes is a special event to trigger an outbreak. Because of this predisposition, researchers have begun exploring whether eczema is caused by a gene mutation. At least 3 genes have been identified as likely contributing to eczema development. 

Although the presence of these genes increases your risk of developing eczema, it does not mean you will definitely develop eczema. Even if both parents suffered from eczema, the child may not develop any symptoms if they modify their environment correctly. This is the premise behind my Eczema Transformation Program.

Mounting evidence has shown that the underlying issue in eczema is a runaway immune system, similar to other autoimmune disorders. Much of our immune system is controlled by our gut, where two-thirds of our immune system resides. So a sick or damaged gut is often the trigger to start an eczema flare—and the biggest predictor of gut health is our diet. The western diet (high sugar, processed foods, high dairy and gluten) has not been friendly to our guts!

How Common Is Eczema?

When you do experience an eczema flare-up, it can feel isolating. You may feel like the only person in the world suffering like this. But that couldn’t be further from the truth!

Eczema is actually fairly common in children. In fact, research shows that this skin condition affects one out of every five children and more than 20% of those kids will have symptoms into adulthood. 

The incidence of new onset eczema in an adult is less common, about 3%. So even if you never had eczema as a child, don’t think you’re out of the woods. It is still entirely possible to develop eczema seemingly out of the blue as an adult.

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Eczema Symptoms

Are you wondering if you have eczema, psoriasis, or something else entirely? Before you can get it officially diagnosed, you need to understand what the eczema symptoms look and feel like.

Generally speaking, eczema makes your skin look red and feel itchy. In terms of both appearance and texture, eczema can make your skin seem cracked and bumpy. It’s not uncommon for someone with eczema to be stuck in a vicious cycle in which they scratch their itchy skin, making it feel dryer and more inflamed than before. The red inflamed areas can be prone to bleeding with recurrent itching.

While not exclusive to these areas, you can usually find eczema inside your elbows, inside your knees, on your face, or in front of your neck (whereas psoriasis typically gets the opposite sides of knees and elbows). But because it can appear almost anywhere, don’t dismiss your skin condition if it appears in a different area. 

How To Diagnose Eczema

Are you looking for an official eczema diagnosis? Here’s a bit of good news: in all likelihood, you don’t need to go to your doctor for this.

The vast majority of those who suffer from eczema simply diagnose it themselves based on the symptoms we outlined above. Our guide will help you distinguish eczema from psoriasis, but generally speaking, those suffering from a major skin condition don’t need a doctor to tell them they are suffering from a major skin condition.

However, some with eczema seek out help with the next step: treating their eczema.

How To Treat Eczema

There are many “traditional” treatments for eczema. Many billions of dollars per year are spent on various ointments, oils, gels, and moisturizers.  A recent study in the journal Dermatitis reviewed patients out of pocket expenses for eczema whether they were insured or not. 

Families spent an average of $50 per month on steroids, $50 per month on creams/moisturizers, and additional funds on a multitude of other eczema related products.

The same study found that 42% of people spend $1,000 or more annually on the condition and  8.5% who spend $5,000 and up. That means more than half of all families with eczema spend well over $1000 per year on the problem. In fact, the out of pocket cost for eczema is higher than the out-of-pocket costs for hypertension and diabetes. 

Western medicine’s approach to eczema has focused on curbing inflammation by blocking the immune system. The use of steroids and powerful immune suppressing drugs is commonplace.  But what if you are wary of western medicine, or you simply aren’t getting results with the above treatments?

There are better options!  I would say the best place to start is by removing dairy and gluten—the two most common triggers in my experience. Additionally, our eczema course provides you with a proven system to help heal your eczema from the inside out. We have treated over a thousand eczema patients by healing their guts with amazing results. The pics below are of one of the patients from our program.

Best of all, this system doesn’t require any steroids or medications. If you are very protective about what goes into your body, this is a great way to heal that can also save you a lot of time and money in the long run, especially because traditional eczema treatment is so expensive!

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Who Is Most At Risk of Eczema?

As we noted earlier, current research suggests that eczema has a genetic component, but there is much more to the story. Eczema is truly a multifactorial problem, and typically many factors combine leading to eczema. Simply being born in the United States (regardless of genetics) increases your risk of eczema.

A family history of eczema means that you are at risk, but your environment is actually what causes the eczema flare. Additionally, a family history of allergies, hay fever, and even asthma may be a predictor of you developing eczema.

People with darker skin (black, latino) are at higher risk of eczema while psoriasis is more common in caucasions. Kids born by c-section, those using medications such as antibiotics, tylenol and zantac, and those with a sick gut are also at increased risk. 

Now that you know everything you need to know about eczema symptoms and treatments, let’s move on to psoriasis.

What Is Psoriasis?

We’re going to take a close look at everything you need to know about psoriasis. But we need to start with the same essential question: what is it, exactly?

Much like eczema, psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disease that makes your skin itchy and discolored. In fact the word psoriasis comes from the Greek word “psora” meaning “itchy”. It can also make your skin look red and scaly, and the skin in question is likely to be very sensitive.

The overactive immune system in psoriasis speeds up skin cell growth leading to plaques and scales, which are raised areas of skin. The inflammation can also affect many other organ systems in the body and have affects far beyond the skin.

What Causes Psoriasis?

Earlier, we reviewed that eczema is caused by certain triggers that push the immune system into overdrive. Similarly, psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system in the face of certain genetic predispositions and environmental triggers. Once again, your genetics load the gun, but your environment pulls the trigger. 

Psoriasis seems to affect a different part of the immune system than eczema. Our white blood cells use proteins to communicate with each other on the status of our immune defenses. These proteins are termed interleukins (inter = between and leukin = white blood cell). A problem with the interleukin signaling has been identified as a possible cause of psoriasis. 

The events put in motion from the interleukin signaling  make your skin cells grow too quickly. When this happens, the surface of your skin begins to develop “plaques” of psoriasis.

Like eczema, psoriasis is a complex disease likely caused by a number of factors. One similarity is that both diseases have also been linked to a problem in the gut—specifically the bacteria residing in the gut termed the microbiome. Alterations in the microbiome disrupt many of the control mechanisms of our immune system, leading to uncontrollable inflammation.

The microbiome damage (termed dysbiosis) is likely the result of our Western diet. Researchers took two groups of mice and gave them both injections of the interleukins associated with psoriasis. Interestingly, only the group of mice fed a Western diet (high sugar, high fat, processed) developed psoriasis. The mice fed a whole food diet did not develop symptoms – You are what you eat!  

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How Common Is Psoriasis?

Relatively speaking, psoriasis is far less common than eczema is. For example, if you added up all of the children and adults who suffer from eczema, it comes to around 30 million Americans. By contrast, only about eight million Americans suffer from psoriasis.

Unlike eczema, psoriasis is more likely to affect adults than children. You are more likely to get psoriasis when you are between the ages of 20 and 30 or between the ages of 50 to 60, though there are certainly exceptions to this rule.

Psoriasis Symptoms

As with eczema, it’s important to understand what potential psoriasis symptoms are. Unfortunately, some of the symptoms of the two skin conditions are very similar.

Visually, you can identify psoriasis on your skin via patches of different colors. These patches may be red or even silver and make your skin look scaly in appearance. The skin in question will also be itchy and may scratch or bleed very easily.

While there are exceptions, psoriasis is mostly located on your scalp, your knees, and your elbows. And under the skin, it may make your different joints feel stiff and swollen, and your body may experience sudden burning sensations.

Another major differentiating factor of psoriasis is its effect on joints. Approximately one-third of patients with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis which affects the joints. This can be severely disabling for those suffering. Psoriasis can also affect the liver and cardiovascular system – for this reason those with severe psoriasis have a significantly shortened lifespan. 

How To Diagnose Psoriasis

Earlier, we discussed how most of those with eczema are able to self-diagnose based on the symptoms they manifest. Unfortunately, diagnosing psoriasis is a bit more difficult.

That’s because it is difficult to diagnose someone with psoriasis unless they are having an active outbreak. And this may require a visit to the dermatologist to determine if you have psoriasis or if this is something else (like a simpler skin rash). And while it is not very likely, a doctor may need to schedule you for a biopsy to verify the diagnosis.

Keep in mind that there are multiple different types of psoriasis that may have slightly different appearance. 

How To Treat Psoriasis

Although there is no cure for psoriasis or eczema, there are definite ways to help heal our bodies. Simply crushing the immune system with medications should not be the only approach. Like other autoimmune diseases, naturally reducing the level of overall inflammation should be the goal. Since two-thirds of our immune system resides in our guts I think we should start there.

Healing the gut and restoring a healthy microbiome are my first approaches to treatment. Much of this can be accomplished through diet and lifestyle adjustments – bye bye Western diet. And though medications may be useful for severe flares, these have significant side effects in the long run. We can’t change a person’s genetics, but we can change how their genes are being expressed. This is termed epigenetics, and our diet and environment play a major role on our epigenome. 

In my clinic, I have treated my psoriasis patients with the same gut healing regimen that I use for my eczema patients and have had success. I have been able to get several children completely off psoriasis medication.  The regimen includes food elimination/replacement, household toxin reduction, replenishing micronutrients like vitamin D, restoring the gut microbiome with probiotics, and several other strategies. The best part is most of these patients get benefits beyond just their skin! Below is a before and after pic of one of my psoriasis patients.

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Who Is Most At Risk of Psoriasis?

Like eczema, family history definitely plays a role in developing psoriasis.  But who is most at risk of developing psoriasis? With this skin condition, there are actually many potential risk factors.

For instance, both obesity and cigarette smoking are associated with psoriasis. Alcohol consumption, stress, and anxiety are also connected to psoriasis. Individuals with other inflammatory diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease are also more likely to develop psoriasis. 

For those who already have psoriasis, flares can be caused by skin trauma, infections, air pollution, medications, vaccinations, obesity, diabetes, or any other exposure which increases inflammation in the body (similar to eczema). 

But that brings us back to the main question: what’s the difference between the two?

Eczema vs Psoriasis: What’s the Difference?

What are the primary differences when it comes to eczema vs psoriasis? Here are the different things you should be aware of.

While children can develop both eczema and psoriasis, they are much likelier to develop eczema. Psoriasis much more commonly occurs in adults than kids, but adults are still more likely to have eczema over their lifetime than psoriasis. 

Both eczema and psoriasis can cause your skin to feel itchy. However, the psoriasis itch is typically very mild. The eczema itch is much more intense, and scratching the affected areas will simply make the feeling worse and may lead to bleeding and infections.

At first glance, eczema and psoriasis both make your skin look red. However, skin affected by psoriasis tends to be both thicker and more scaly than skin affected by eczema. Plaques and scaling are typical in psoriasis but not in eczema.

Eczema typically does not affect joints or the cardiovascular system like psoriasis and has not been associated with shortened life expectancy. 

Most of the time, people with one of these skin conditions are trying to figure out which one they have. But in some rare cases, someone may develop both eczema and psoriasis at the same time!

Your Next Move

Now you know the differences between eczema vs psoriasis. But if you discover that you or your child has eczema or psoriasis, do you know what step to take next?

At this point, many would tell you to go to your doctor. However, plenty of people are wary of putting new medications into their bodies. And in recent years, faith in traditional western medicine has fallen lower than ever.

Fortunately, there are natural ways to deal with eczema and psoriasis. If you’re ready to take a holistic approach to your health and address the root cause of illness, we can help! We offer an online program for eczema and inflammatory skin conditions or you can contact us  in person treatment.

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