Is it Eczema or Psoriasis?

How do you tell?
Though they can be confused at first, there are many differences between eczema and psoriasis, not the least of which is one does not develop into the other.
Though they can be confused at first, there are many differences between eczema and psoriasis, not the least of which is one does not develop into the other. [ CRYSTAL LIGHT | Shutterstock ]
Published April 7|Updated April 7

By Sally Moe, Times Total Media Correspondent

Maybe you’ve been noticing these discolored, itchy inflamed patches on your skin. They’re really bothersome, you’re feeling self-conscious about them and they aren’t getting better. You’re wondering, could it be eczema … or psoriasis? What’s the difference? Aren’t they basically the same thing?

Short answer: Nope, they’re not. At first presentation, both conditions look similar, so they can be confused. Plus, certain topicals and UVB therapy can soothe both conditions. So it takes the experienced eye of a board-certified dermatologist, and perhaps a biopsy, to know which condition is causing your symptoms.

First, the comparison lowdown from

• Psoriasis is a chronic immune-mediated disease associated with systemic inflammation that can lead to comorbidities like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, anxiety and depression.

• Eczema, according to the National Eczema Association, “is the name for a group of conditions that cause the skin to become itchy, inflamed or have a rash-like appearance. There are seven types of eczema: atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, dyshidrotic eczema, nummular eczema, neurodermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis and stasis dermatitis.”

Some people mistakenly think of eczema as “psoriasis lite,” but eczema will not develop into psoriasis. (You can have both conditions, though that’s uncommon.) Both conditions are chronic — meaning they can’t be cured — but they can be managed. Both conditions have an immune-system link, although the links are very different. And neither condition is contagious.

Eczema tends to start earlier, often in infancy (60 percent of eczema cases present within a baby’s first year, according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics). Psoriasis tends to start later in life, generally between the ages of 20 and 30, or 50 and 60. Children with eczema have a higher likelihood of developing asthma and/or nasal allergies later in life. Alternately, there is a strong link between psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

While both have an immune system component, psoriasis is considered an autoimmune disease, while eczema, at least currently, is not. (Both conditions run in families, so genetic triggers are being studied.) In the case of psoriasis, skin cell turnover is sped up from every four weeks or so to every four days, leading to a buildup of new skin cells on top of older skin cells that can’t be shed quickly enough. This buildup manifests as the thickened, scaly, itchy patches called plaques (plaque psoriasis being the most common form of the condition).

This rapid cell turnover and resulting buildup is not a feature of eczema. While the exact cause of eczema is unknown, researchers do know that people who develop the disorder do so because of a combination of genes, a sensitive immune system, a dysfunctional skin barrier, skin bacteria like staphylococcus aureus and environmental triggers.

If you’re still not sure about what’s going on with your skin — and even if you are — start seeing a dermatologist. Their hard-won knowledge and expertise can help you get control over your symptoms, so you can get back to living your best life. Which is really the whole point.

Information for this article was gathered from,,,, and