What’s the Difference Between Psoriasis & Eczema?

Eczema vs Psoriasis

Nothing is more satisfying than scratching an intense itch. Likewise, nothing is more frustrating than a persistent itch that evades relief.

Psoriasis and eczema are two relatively common skin disorders that cause dryness, itching, and rashes which can become red and inflamed with scratching.

Psoriasis and eczema sometimes look very similar, but it’s the differences that may help you and your doctor come to a diagnosis. Here’s what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for both.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition with a genetic component which causes the skin cells to grow at an abnormal speed. This results in the build-up of scaly, red skin lesions which may burn or itch. Psoriasis typically develops between the ages of 15 and 25 and affects more than 8 million Americans and over 125 million people around the world.[1]

There are several forms of psoriasis including plaque, guttate, inverse, pustular, and erythrodermic. Plaque psoriasis, the most common form, is characterized by raised lesions covered with a white build-up of dead skin cells. Other forms produce red, shiny lesions or blisters of pus. Erythrodermic psoriasis is one of the most severe forms – it can cover most of the body and causes severe pain and skin peeling.

It is important to note that psoriasis can present differently depending on the colour of a person’s skin. An inexperienced doctor may find it difficult to diagnose for this reason.

On white skin, for example, psoriasis can cause red patches, while on dark skin, it can cause gray, purple, or ashen patches. Psoriasis may be more severe in skin of colour.

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 papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, are associated with psoriasis.

Understanding exactly how requires further research. Psoriasis flare-ups are more likely to follow injuries to the skin and can also be brought about by stress or infection.

What is Eczema?

Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is an inflammatory skin condition thought to have an immune component. This condition often occurs in conjunction with primary immunodeficiency diseases and has also been associated with allergies and asthma.[2] Eczema typically develops in childhood and may resolve with age. Up to 20% of children have eczema but only 1% to 3% of adults.[3]

Eczema is characterized by dry, itchy patches of skin that may weep, seeping a clear fluid which results in a crust. The condition may be worsened by scratching or by certain irritants and environmental conditions. Though the condition can disappear over time, it is more persistent in men than women.

People may go for quite some time without experiencing symptoms, then have a flare-up. Many factors can trigger flare-ups, including allergic reactions. For people with eczema, avoiding known allergens may help prevent flare-ups.

Causes of eczema

Healthcare professionals do not know the cause of eczema, but it tends to run in families which suggests a genetic link. Triggers such as hormonal changes, materials such as wool or synthetic fabrics, allergic reactions, cold, dry weather, pollen, pet fur, dust mites, harsh or highly fragranced soap, detergent, or shampoo that can cause eczema to worsen.

An In-Depth Look at Symptoms

Both psoriasis and eczema can present with dry skin, rashes, and itching. Because the symptoms often overlap, however, it can be difficult to tell the difference. Sometimes the best way to tell the difference between psoriasis and eczema is to look at the appearance of the skin and to explore how it feels.

Eczema causes redness and inflammation but may also produce dry, itchy patches of skin that seep clear fluid which results in a crust. The red patches caused by psoriasis are typically raised and may have a silvery or scaly appearance. Eczema tends to react more severely to sunlight, whereas UV light may slow the progression of psoriasis.

People who suffer from psoriasis describe the itching as mild, sometimes with a burning or stinging sensation. Eczema, on the other hand, causes intense itching; people with eczema may scratch so much the skin starts to bleed.

Exploring the Treatment Options

Eczema and psoriasis are both long-term conditions that require long-term treatments. Treatment may depend on the severity of symptoms as well as the size and location of the affected area of skin. Common treatments include topical anti-inflammatories, hydrating skin creams, phototherapy, and biologic or systemic drugs to control the body’s inflammatory and immune responses.

The first step in resolving your skin issues is to talk to your doctor to receive a diagnosis and find out about treatment options. Though both eczema and psoriasis can be chronic, finding the right treatment can relieve symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

Can someone have psoriasis and eczema?

It is possible to have both these conditions, and a person may need to use different treatments for each.

One 2014 study included participants with both eczema and psoriasis. The researchers found different genes in skin tissue affected by each condition, and they say that identifying the “molecular signature” of psoriasis and eczema could help doctors more definitively diagnose each condition.


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 keeping the skin clean and moisturised can help ease symptoms of either or both these health issues.

  1. https://www.psoriasis.org/psoriasis-statistics
  2. https://primaryimmune.org/understanding-primary-immunodeficiency/what-is-pi/autoimmunity
  3. https://www.ajmc.com/view/overview-of-atopic-dermatitis-article

Information contained in this article was obtained from

This Information Sheet is provided as a service by the Eczema Association of New Zealand to give up-to-date, practical help on certain types of eczema or a particular aspect of its treatment. These Information Sheets are part of our membership package.

It is not the policy of the Eczema Association of New Zealand to recommend or endorse any product or treatment. It is part of the role of the Association to provide information on a wide range of products and treatments to keep those involved with eczema as fully informed as possible as to all options available. For medical advice, consult your health professional.