What's the Difference Between Eczema and Psoriasis?

Nov 01, 2023
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Are those itchy, scaly skin patches eczema or psoriasis? Uncover the truth and learn the difference between these common skin conditions.

When dealing with itchy, flaky, or red patches on your skin, it can be frustrating and confusing to identify the root cause. Two of the most prevalent skin conditions, eczema and psoriasis, often share similar symptoms, making it challenging to determine which one you're dealing with.

Courtney Bagayoko, MD, FAAD, MPH, Roy E. Howard, PA-C, and our dedicated team at Anchorage Dermatology & Cosmetics in Anchorage, Alaska, excel at determining the root cause of your itchy skin and providing effective symptom relief. 

We break down the key differences between eczema and psoriasis to help you understand and manage these skin issues.

What is eczema? 

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that primarily affects children but can persist into adulthood. Here are some key features that define eczema:

Itchy, inflamed skin

Eczema is notorious for causing intense itching, often leading to scratching, making the skin even more irritated and prone to infection.

Redness and rashes 

Eczema typically manifests as red or brownish-gray patches appearing in various parts of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, and behind the knees.

Blisters and weeping 

In severe cases, eczema can cause small blisters to form, leading to oozing and crusting.

Common triggers

Eczema flare-ups can get triggered by allergens like pollen, pet dander, or certain foods, and irritants such as soaps, detergents, and fragrances.

Age of onset 

Eczema often starts in infancy and improves with age; however, it can also develop in adulthood, which is less common.

What is psoriasis? 

On the other hand, psoriasis is another skin condition that often gets confused with eczema. Here's what sets psoriasis apart:

Silver scales 

One of the distinguishing features of psoriasis is the presence of thick, silvery scales on the skin. These scales can appear on red or pink skin, often on the elbows, knees, and scalp.

Chronic and non-contagious 

Psoriasis —  a chronic condition that is not contagious — occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells, which leads to an overproduction of skin cells. 

Joints involvement 

Some people with psoriasis may experience joint pain and inflammation, a condition known as psoriatic arthritis. This can cause stiffness and discomfort, especially in the fingers and toes.


Certain medications, infections, and stress can worsen or trigger psoriasis symptoms.

The differences between eczema and psoriasis 

While eczema and psoriasis share some similarities, they have distinct characteristics that can help you differentiate between the two:


Eczema tends to have a more red, inflamed appearance with blisters and oozing, while psoriasis has silver scales on red or pink skin.

Age of onset 

Eczema often starts in childhood and can improve as you age, while psoriasis typically emerges in adulthood.


Allergens and irritants frequently trigger eczema, whereas stress and infections can exacerbate psoriasis.


Eczema often appears in the creases of the skin, like the inner elbows and behind the knees, while psoriasis is more likely to develop on the extensor surfaces, such as the elbows and knees.


Intense itching almost always accompanies eczema, which is not as common in psoriasis.

Living with eczema or psoriasis can be challenging, but many people successfully manage their symptoms with the right treatments, lifestyle adjustments, and support from a dedicated team of experts. 

So, whether you're dealing with eczema, psoriasis, or any other skin condition, contact Anchorage Dermatology & Cosmetics at 907-865-8455 or use our online booking tool to request an appointment today.