Eczema Vs Psoriasis - What's The Difference?

Eczema and psoriasis often present similarly…the symptoms can make it hard to tell which one you are suffering from to the untrained eye. Neither are contagious or deadly but can be highly irritating to have.1 There are some key differences that you can find out about here.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is often referred to as atopic dermatitis, although there are other forms of eczema too. It is often caused by your immune system overreacting to small irritants or allergens. This overreaction causes inflammation of the skin. It can have varying causes, including these immune system issues, genetics, environmental triggers or stress.2

Eczema comes in different forms including:10

  1. Atopic dermatitis
  2. Contact Dermatitis
  3. Dyshidrotic eczema
  4. Nummular eczema
  5. Seborrheic dermatitis
  6. Stasis dermatitis

The general symptoms of eczema are dry and itchy skin, rashes, scaly patches of skin, blisters on the skin and skin infections. It is an inflammatory skin condition that causes these symptoms to occur. Itchy skin is the most common symptom of eczema.2

Eczema is a prevalent skin condition, affecting more children than adults. Across the world, around 20% of children and 3% of adults have eczema of some kind.

Eczema is most commonly on the hands, with hand dermatitis making up 20-35% of all cases of eczema in the U.S. (31.6 million Americans).3 Most of the time, eczema starts in childhood; 70% of cases begin in children under 5. Of these cases, about 60% continue to have one or more symptoms as an adult.3

Weather can impact eczema symptoms - with low humidity drying out your skin, and high heat causing sweating can irritate your skin, too. Factors of your environment include tobacco smoke, air pollutants, harsh soaps, fabrics like wool, and particular skin products. Stress can also have an impact on eczema.1 

Treatment For Eczema

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for eczema. The good news is that there are some widely effective treatments readily available. 

You can begin by removing environmental factors that are making your eczema worse. Trying out different skincare products, washing soaps/powders, and clothing can reduce symptoms if these are irritants. Products free of perfumes, dyes and alcohol are usually gentler on the skin. They will be labelled as ‘hypoallergenic’ or for ‘sensitive skin’.4 

Monitoring your stress levels can also impact if stress worsens your symptoms. Counselling or practising self-care routines that work for you can help relieve stress. Reducing caffeine, tobacco and alcohol intake can help to reduce stress. Non-competitive sports can be beneficial in reducing stress by releasing endorphins.5

Over-the-counter creams and ointments containing cortisone can help relieve itchiness and redness. You can also take over-the-counter antihistamines, which may help with severe itchy skin. Your healthcare provider can also prescribe steroid creams, pills or shots to relieve symptoms. 

What is Psoriasis? 

Psoriasis is a chronic illness, and the cause is unclear. We know that it is an immune-mediated disease that occurs because of a dysfunction in the immune system that causes inflammation in the body. The visible skin issues from psoriasis are called plaques. These can look different on different skin types but are usually raised and scaly.6

This happens because the overactive immune system speeds up the growth of skin cells. Skin cells grow entirely and shed within a month in an average body. When somebody has psoriasis, the skin cells complete this process within 3-4 days. Instead of shedding, the skin cells pile up on the skin's surface, creating plaques that can occur anywhere on the body.6

Psoriasis can feel different for each person, but some report that the plaques are itchy, burn or sting. Common places for plaques are on the scalp, elbow and knees, although they can occur anywhere on the body. Symptoms usually appear between 15 and 25, although they can begin at any age.6 

Unfortunately, inflammation caused by psoriasis isn’t limited to impacting the skin. It can also affect other organs and tissues in the body. 1 in 3 people with psoriasis also develops psoriatic arthritis, which has symptoms including swelling, stiffness and pain in joints and the surrounding areas.6

It’s really important to treat psoriatic arthritis early on to avoid permanent joint damage. If you think you may be suffering from it, contact your health provider as soon as possible. 

Treatment For Psoriasis 

Just like eczema, there is no cure for psoriasis. Again, some treatments can help with symptoms such as the plaques on the skin. 

Creams and ointments such as topical corticosteroids are the first lines of defence against psoriasis.7 For mild cases, this will usually do the trick.

For more severe cases, phototherapy may be used. This is a type of treatment that involves exposing your skin to certain types of ultraviolet light.7 Another treatment for the most severe cases of psoriasis is systemic oral or injected medicines that target the whole body.7 

The Link Between Psoriasis, Eczema and The Gut-Skin Axis

The Gut-Skin Axis is the relationship our gut has with the health and appearance of our skin.

It may come as a surprise that gut health plays a part in skin conditions. Yet, considering how vital your gut is in terms of inflammation, it begins to make a bit more sense. Our healthy and balanced microbiome is vital in regulating skin turnover, what is detoxified through the skin, and inflammatory skin mediators.8

Some studies have shown that people with psoriasis have fewer “good” bacteria in their gut, so they have a less balanced gut microbiome than those without psoriasis.9

Having an imbalance of bacteria in your gut causes inflammation, and as we now know, psoriasis is an inflammatory condition. Eczema is also an inflammatory condition, so probiotics may work for eczema in the same way that they may work for psoriasis. 

Probiotics help balance and maintain a healthy gut microbiome, which in turn could help lessen the impact of psoriasis and eczema by getting the inflammatory skin mediators working.

At The Gut Co, we have created a daily supplement containing probiotics called “Skin Health”, specifically designed to heal the skin from the inside out. The formula was designed with vitamins, botanical extracts and live bacteria (probiotics) to recover one of the most common root causes of skin irritation; an unhealthy gut. 

Final Thoughts

 Eczema and psoriasis are both currently incurable, so treatments to reduce symptoms are presently the only method to improve the lives of those suffering. More evidence is needed to correctly identify the correlation between probiotics and the impact on skin conditions.

The current evidence shows promise that probiotics can reduce inflammation in the gut, which reduces inflammation on the skin. As always, if you’re concerned that you may be suffering from one of these conditions, speak to your doctor to get it diagnosed and find out the most appropriate treatments for you. 

Handpicked content: Introduction to Gut Health and Hormones

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