How to Tell Whether That Itchy Rash is Eczema or Psoriasis

A rash is a patch of irritated skin. Almost everyone gets a rash at some point in their lives. They’re not always a cause for concern, but itchy, red, and painful rashes that don’t go away can be a sign of a more serious skin condition.

Eczema and psoriasis are two of the most common skin conditions in the United States. In fact, nearly 32 million Americans have eczema, and another 7.5 million have psoriasis. The causes and treatments of these two conditions are different, but since both cause red, itchy rashes, it’s not always easy to tell the difference.

Trust your skin care to Oswald Mikell, MD, and our team at Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry. We’re experts in diagnosing and treating eczema and psoriasis, and in this blog we’re taking a closer look at what makes them different.

Signs of eczema

Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a common condition that causes itchy, red rashes. Your rash could indicate eczema if you notice:

Eczema most commonly appears on the insides of the elbows or knees or around the wrists or ankles. Babies and young children may get eczema on their face and scalp.

Signs of psoriasis

Like eczema, psoriasis is also characterized by red rashes on the skin. Psoriasis rashes are called plaques. There are several kinds of psoriasis, and symptoms vary from person to person. You could have psoriasis if you see:

Psoriasis plaques can appear almost anywhere on the body. A few of the most common spots are the scalp, face, elbows, knees, and hands.

Differences between eczema and psoriasis

Eczema and psoriasis both cause red, itchy rashes. Both types of rashes can appear on your face, hands, elbows, and knees. They share a lot of similar characteristics, but these common skin conditions have their differences.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. Eczema, on the other hand, is linked to environmental triggers, allergies, and asthma.


Eczema rashes may be itchier than psoriasis plaques. Psoriasis generally causes milder itching and thick, scaly patches of skin. On the other hand, eczema rashes might be so itchy that you scratch your skin until it starts to bleed.

When symptoms generally begin

While anyone at any age can develop eczema or psoriasis, the conditions generally begin to manifest at different times. With eczema, more than half of all cases are diagnosed before 12 months of age, with most of the rest of the cases developing by age 10. Psoriasis, on the other hand, is generally diagnosed between ages 15-25.

Treating eczema and psoriasis

Dr. Mikell and our team specialize in diagnosing rashes and chronic skin conditions. First, we’ll perform a physical exam to determine the cause of your rashes. Then we’ll recommend a treatment strategy for you. It’s possible to have both eczema and psoriasis at the same time.

Neither eczema or psoriasis has a cure, but Dr. Mikell offers several treatment options that can reduce flare-ups and calm your skin. Common treatments for eczema include topical or oral corticosteroids and trigger avoidance. If you have psoriasis, UVB light therapy with XTRAC® may offer relief.

You don’t have to live with painful, itchy rashes. Find out what’s causing your discomfort and get a treatment plan that’s tailored for you. To learn more, book an appointment over the phone with Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry today.

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