What is eczema?
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that is notorious for making your skin dry, red, rough, itchy, and inflamed. Symptoms include peeling, cracked, blistered skin, and small raised bumps on the skin. Eczema rashes are most commonly found on the face, behind the ears, on the hands and feet, and in the bending areas of the body, such as the back of the neck, and in and around the creases of the arms and legs.
While eczema is more prevalent in children, it can occur at any age. There are several kinds of eczema, but the most common type is known as atopic dermatitis. Eczema is notorious for causing intensely itchy skin which makes people instinctively want to scratch the itch away. The problem is that scratching can easily break the already fragile, dry, cracked, peeling skin. This is a concern because skin that’s broken is skin that is open––to infection that is. The skin is the largest organ in the body that acts as a protective shield, and when skin becomes damaged or torn, this provides an open door to microbes.
In addition, scratching actually increases inflammation of the skin and encourages the “itch scratch itch cycle,” a vicious cycle that ultimately makes you more itchy. (The itch-scratch-itch cycle really deserves its own article… Stay tuned…! 😉 )
Now, eczema will politely be ushered backstage, as there is a showdown going on here and psoriasis is about to take center stage. Please welcome an overview of the condition that is often confused with eczema: Psoriasis.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes dry, flaky, red, thick patches of inflamed, silvery scales on the skin. For those of you who are unfamiliar with autoimmune illnesses, they occur when something goes wrong in the immune system which causes it to mistakenly attack the body’s own cells, thinking they are a foreign invader. When it comes to psoriasis, specialized and well-meaning cells (known as T cells) launch a defense attack on the skin cells. Generally, these cells are beneficial against the real bad guys like viruses and harmful bacteria. The problem with this condition, however, is that the immune system misperceives the body’s own cells as one of these damaging forces, and unwittingly hurts itself–its own body. The autoimmune response associated with psoriasis causes inflammation and rapid growth of skin cells which grow quicker than the body can shed them. This causes a surplus of skin cells that pile up and manifest as plaques on the skin.
The most common type of psoriasis is known as plaque psoriasis. Psoriasis patches, also called plaques, are typically found on the scalp, face, front of the knees and shins, lower back, and on the outside of elbows and forearms (unlike eczema which is generally found inside and around the creases behind the knees and elbows). While psoriasis can technically appear anywhere on the body, these are the locations where psoriasis is usually found.
While there is no “winner” of the showdown, upon comparing eczema and psoriasis, you’ve likely found that they each have unique characteristics and symptoms. In future blogs, we will discuss each of these conditions more in depth, along with the pros and cons of some common treatments, and the Marie’s Original treatment plan.