Itchy, dry skin. Unsightly lesions. The risk of infection. These symptoms are all too familiar to eczema and psoriasis sufferers. Many people think the two conditions are the same. In fact, they're quite different. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, psoriasis is a recurring disease caused by an overactive immune system. Eczema, on the other hand, is a name given to a variety of skin inflammations.
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Scales and lesions on the skin mark are the most common symptom of psoriasis. The lesions may appear white, silver or red. Psoriasis may or may not itch or cause pain. Some psoriasis patients also develop arthritis due to inflammation in their joints. Eczema, on the other hand, usually starts with severe itching. Redness and cracking may follow. In some cases, fluid may ooze from the affected skin.
Outbreaks of psoriasis result from overactive immune system, which causes abnormally fast skin growth. Eczema, in contrast, may be caused by an allergic reaction, by repeated contact with a skin irritant or without any obvious trigger.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 10 to 20 per cent of the world's population experiences some form of eczema. Children are most likely to develop atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema. Cases of psoriasis are rarer. Caucasians are more likely to develop psoriasis (about one person in 40) than African-Americans (about one person in 60). A family history of psoriasis increases the possibility that a person will develop the condition.
Different Time Frames
Most cases of atopic dermatitis develop in early childhood. Children who develop eczema have about a 50 per cent chance of having the condition as adults. Contact dermatitis can clear if the patient avoids the irritant that caused it. Psoriasis may develop at any time but often first appears in early adulthood. Most people with the condition have symptoms throughout their lives.
Different Diagnosis Methods
A dermatologist will consider the extent of an outbreak, a patient's health history and family health history to make a diagnosis of psoriasis. Itchy skin and rashes may serve to diagnose eczema. Allergy tests can be used to determine if contact dermatitis has occurred. In some cases, even doctors have difficulty distinguishing psoriasis from eczema. In theses, a skin biopsy may be performed to make the diagnosis.
Treatment for both psoriasis and eczema focuses on relieving itch and other symptoms. Both conditions may respond to moisturisers and steroids that help clear the skin. For psoriasis patients, however, more advanced treatments will focus on preventing the immune response that triggers skin growth. This can involve medications and biologic agents that slow the immune system.
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