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How to Tell Whether That Itchy Rash Is Eczema or Psoriasis

Do you have a dry, itchy, red rash that doesn’t seem to go away? You may have eczema or psoriasis. Both conditions have similar symptoms and both can run in families, which can make it difficult to distinguish one from the other. These similar skin conditions are often managed with similar treatments, but there are differences you should know.

Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner helps patients manage a wide variety of allergies and immune-related conditions, including psoriasis and eczema.

What are the differences between eczema and psoriasis?

A number of conditions can cause dry, itchy skin. Eczema and psoriasis are two conditions that are similar and can be tough to tell apart.


Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition brought on by an overactive immune system. In patients with psoriasis, the skin develops red, scaly patches that itch. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type of psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis is characterized by raised, itchy, red areas that most often appear on the elbows and knees. In people with plaque psoriasis, the immune system causes the body to produce more skin cells than normal, and they build up.


Like psoriasis, eczema is marked by patches of itchy, dry, scaly skin. Atopic dermatitis is the most common type of eczema. People with eczema have a damaged outer layer of skin that is sensitive to triggers, such as allergens, bacteria, and chemicals that the skin comes in contact with.


Eczema causes patches of skin to appear red and scaly. The skin may ooze or crust and take on a leathery appearance. Psoriasis can cause red patches of skin as well. However, the patches are thicker and more inflamed than what is seen with eczema.

Affected areas

Eczema shows up most commonly in areas of the body that bend, such as the insides of the elbows and the backs of the knees. Psoriasis can appear in various places, such as the scalp, face, palms, back, and soles of the feet.  In contrast to eczema, psoriasis is usually seen on the outside of the elbows and on the front side of the knees.


Psoriasis and eczema have different triggers:

People with eczema have a damaged outermost layer of skin (epidermis). This layer of skin normally provides a waterproof barrier against bacteria and other things in the environment. Since the barrier doesn’t function well, various things can irritate the skin and trigger an eczema flare-up, including:

Other triggers are stress, heat, extreme temperatures, and hormonal changes

Psoriasis shares some of the same triggers, such as stress and weather. Other triggers are:

What symptoms should you look out for?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for the average person to tell the difference between eczema and psoriasis. It’s best to see a specialist if you spot a rash of any kind that doesn’t clear up or returns.

Dr. Ziegner is specially trained to look at various aspects of rashes to distinguish between psoriasis, eczema, and other inflammatory skin conditions. There’s no substitute for expert evaluation. In addition to a visual examination, Dr. Ziegner will go over your medical history and discuss your symptoms.

Treatment for eczema and psoriasis

Despite the difference in causes, eczema and psoriasis are typically treated similarly. Treatment may include:

With the right diagnosis and management, you can take back control and get relief from eczema and psoriasis symptoms. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Riviera Allergy Medical Center today.

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