The winter months can play havoc on your skin, so it’s important to know how to take the best care of it. Here’s how to identify psoriasis and eczema from dry skin, what causes it and how to treat it.
Affecting around 2% of the UK population, psoriasis is a common skin condition that can come and go throughout your lifetime, often with flare-ups as well as periods of no psoriasis symptoms at all. Plaque psoriasis is the most common form – affecting almost 90 per cent of sufferers – and most commonly manifests itself as scaly skin and red or pink patches (depending on your skin colour). As with any skin condition, psoriasis can affect everybody differently – the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back are the areas where you may most commonly suffer from it though. In some cases, the patches can be itchy and sore, too.
What causes it?
There are a number of psoriasis causes, both inherited and environmental. While it’s not contagious, psoriasis is considered a hereditary condition and you may find you’re more likely to suffer from it if you also have a family member that does. While scientists are still trying to catch up to understand everything about psoriasis, it is also believed to be connected to our immune systems. The skin’s epidermis (its outer layer) contains skin cells that are continuously replaced every three to four weeks. In skin affected by psoriasis however, cells divide more quickly (in as little as three to four days), dead cells can build up on the surface and healthy cells are targeted by mistake. Infections, stress, skin damage, certain medications and alcohol can all encourage this. If you suspect you may suffer from psoriasis don’t just rely on self-evaluation though – get an expert opinion from a doctor or dermatologist as there could be another cause to your symptoms. In some cases, a biopsy may also need to be taken to confirm you have it.
How should I treat psoriasis?
There’s no ‘miracle’ cure for psoriasis yet. There are a range of ways that you can soothe its symptoms though. With hydration key, moisturising skincare regimes can help to calm irritation and reduce inflammation, stop itching and the further spread of infection.
What are the main differences between psoriasis and eczema?
While you may find it difficult to tell one itchy rash from the next, there are some things to look out for when you’re trying to tell the difference between psoriasis and eczema. Eczema can be incredibly itchy and cause you to scratch so much that your skin can bleed. The discomfort caused by psoriasis however has sometimes been compared to feeling like a sting or burn. While both can cause your skin to be red, inflamed and scaly in appearance, on closer inspection, skin is thicker and more inflamed with eczema and can appear cracked and blistered. Eczema is most commonly found in the parts of the body that bend too, such as your inner elbow, the back of your knees, neck, wrists and ankles.
So, what is eczema then and how can I treat it?
Eczema (AKA atopic dermatitis) occurs because of a hypersensitivity reaction and often affects those who are prone to allergies, even developing alongside other conditions such as asthma or hay fever. Symptoms can be triggered by irritants such as soaps, food, detergents, animals, dyes, stress and the weather, so allergy tests can sometimes help in identifying potential triggers. Avoiding scratching (easier than it sounds, right?) can help to prevent the risk of skin infections and moisturising daily can also help to hydrate dry skin and manage your eczema. If you suspect you may suffer from psoriasis or eczema, please consult the doctor for an expert opinion don’t just rely on self-evaluation.
For some suggestions of how to keep your skin hydrated, click here for our pick of the best moisturisers for dry skin.