What’s the Difference Between Atopic Eczema, Rosacea and Psoriasis?

What’s the Difference Between Atopic Eczema, Rosacea and Psoriasis?

Atopic Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis), psoriasis and rosacea may all present with similar skin symptoms, this can often make it difficult to determine which skin condition you might actually have. There are a couple of factors that differentiate one condition from the other. These factors include what areas of the body are impacted, the age in which the symptoms began, the nature of the rash and whether or not there are any identified triggers that led to the skin symptoms. A primary care provider or a dermatologist can properly diagnosis what you are experiencing and help make a treatment plan that works for you.

A look at rosacea

Rosacea is a common skin condition and causes redness and visible blood vessels. People may also experience red bumps that swell and contain pus. Rosacea is often mistaken for an allergic reaction or acne as the symptoms often affect the face. Rosacea is more common among fair-skinned individuals and it occurs more frequently in women. Rosacea symptoms have periods of time when they are more severe and periods of time when symptoms are milder. Rosacea can also spread to other areas of the body including the eyes, ears, chest, and back.1,2

What causes rosacea?

The cause of rosacea isn’t known, but it is thought to be due to a combination of factors including environmental and hereditary factors. There is no medical test to diagnose rosacea if your doctor suspects you have rosacea they will conduct a physical examination as well as a symptoms history. Your doctor may want to rule out other medical conditions before making a treatment plan. 1,2

How is rosacea treated?

Treatment for rosacea includes determining what may cause your rosacea to flare and to avoid those triggers. Some common rosacea triggers include:

  • Temperature extremes or changes
  • Sunburn
  • Stress
  • Skin care products and/or make-up that contain alcohol
  • Hot beverages, caffeine or alcohol
  • Spicy foods
  • Certain medications1,2

There are some topical treatments that may be suggested by your doctor to manage your rosacea symptoms. There are also medications that work to reduce the redness by constricting the blood vessels, antibiotics may also be used to help fight the inflammation by reducing the bacteria. Laser therapy or electrodesiccation (use of a tiny needle to deliver electricity directly to the blood vessel and in turn destroying it) are other options as well.1,2

A look at psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic, life-long autoimmune condition. Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis and most people who have the condition will cycle through periods of flare-ups and remissions. Flare-ups are times when psoriasis symptoms get worse and periods of remission are when psoriasis symptoms get better or even clear up for some time. With psoriasis, the person’s immune system overacts, which causes the body to grow skin cells too quickly. These new skin cells pile up on the skin causing psoriasis plaques. The most common form is plaque psoriasis which causes slightly raised red patches that have silver looking scales. Psoriasis plaques can be different sizes and cover small areas of the body or can join together to cover a larger area of the body. Plaque psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body but commonly affected areas are the elbows, knees, and scalp. Psoriasis can develop at any age, even during childhood. There are other types of psoriasis that may also appear to look like other skin conditions.3

What causes psoriasis?

The cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, but researchers believe that it is both a combination of genetics and environmental factors that play a role in the development of the condition. Triggers are unique to each individual who is diagnosed with psoriasis. Some common triggers among people with plaque psoriasis include:

  • Infections
  • Skin injuries
  • Taking certain medications
  • Lifestyle and environmental triggers: stress, smoking, drinking alcohol heavily, diet, allergies and weather3

How is psoriasis treated?

The type of psoriasis and the severity of the individual’s psoriasis will help to determine what course of treatment will be appropriate. There are a variety of topical treatments that may help improve symptoms of psoriasis, including topical corticosteroids. Other ways to manage and treat psoriasis symptoms include light therapy (phototherapy), systemic treatments, biologics, other medications, lifestyle modifications or alternative and complementary therapies.3

A look at atopic eczema

Atopic eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) is a common skin condition that is characterized by dry, itchy, and scaly patches. Atopic eczema is known for the intense itching that it causes. Atopic eczema most often occurs in children, with 90% of all cases being diagnosed before the age of 5.4,5 As a chronic condition, atopic eczema may have periods of remission and periods of flares. Atopic eczema may also appear differently depending on the age of the person affected. A primary care doctor or dermatologist will inspect the skin and asks about symptoms that you are experiencing such as itch. Sometimes, a provider may conduct a patch test to determine if you have skin allergies.

What causes atopic eczema?

The exact causes of atopic eczema still remain unknown, although researchers have found that there is a genetic predisposition. A dysfunction in the skin’s barrier, environmental factors, and a dysfunction in the immune system, are all believed to play a role also. Common triggers for flares of atopic eczema include:

  • Heat/Weather
  • Sweat
  • Stress
  • Infections
  • Exposure to irritants (ex: fabrics)
  • Food or environmental allergy

How is atopic eczema treated?

Treatment for atopic eczema will typically require a combination of good skin care, use of medications, and lifestyle changes including avoiding known triggers. Medications may be used to help with controlling the intense itch, reducing inflammation, and helping to prevent future flares. Medicines for atopic eczema include topical corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, immunomodulators, antibiotics, and antihistamines. Proper skin care and lifestyle changes can help prevent flare-ups. In addition, some people with atopic eczema benefit from phototherapy.

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