Sunday, July 31, 2016
Psoriasis and eczema are two skin conditions that cause irritation and inflammation to the skin. They can often look similar, show similar symptoms and common triggers, but they are in fact two distinctive conditions. Both of these conditions affect a large number of people in the UK. It’s thought that around 2% of the UK population suffers from psoriasis alone, and in light of the upcoming Psoriasis Awareness Month in August run by the National Psoriasis Foundation, we thought it would be beneficial to take a look at some of the more common triggers and treatments available.
The two skin conditions appear as irritations and inflammations on the skin. However, there are subtle differences between them.
Eczema is a long-lasting skin disease that is more common in babies and children, but can continue into adulthood or even develop later in life. It appears as dry, itchy, red and cracked patches of skin on the body, particularly on the backs of knees, insides of the elbows, as well as around the neck, hands, cheeks and scalp, although it can affect any area of the body. These inflamed patches are intensely itchy and can become inflamed and swollen, as well as weepy, crusty or flaky.
Psoriasis is also a chronic condition that shows similar symptoms such as flaky, crusty, red patches of skin. However, it has a drier look with a silver, scaly top layer. Whilst it can be itchy, many sufferers say the feeling is more like a burning sensation. Psoriasis is caused by the immune system generating an excess of new skin cells. A typical skin cell replacement cycle spans over 3-4 weeks, whereas with psoriasis sufferers this can be as little as 3-7 days. This build-up of excess skin causes the surface to become irritated and inflamed in areas such as the knees, elbows, lower back, face, scalp, palms and soles of the feet; it is possible for it to appear in other areas too.
With both skin conditions, there isn’t a complete understanding of the definitive causes, but there are some common triggers to be aware of.
With psoriasis, it isn’t uncommon to go through periods with little or no symptoms of the condition. You may be more prone to developing psoriasis or triggering it if there is psoriasis in your family history, although the full extent of this link hasn’t been fully explored. However, other environmental triggers can include an injury to the skin, excessive alcohol, throat infections, stress, smoking, hormonal changes, as well as certain medications that include beta blockers, ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure and anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
For eczema, there is evidence to suggest it can also be hereditary and often connected to conditions such as hay fever or asthma. Furthermore, most eczema sufferers will generally have dry skin that makes the skin more sensitive to irritation from detergents and soaps, as well as food allergies and certain kinds of materials touching the skin. In addition, there are a number of allergens and environmental factors such as pet fur, pollen, dust mites or extreme hot and cold weather that can cause eczema to flare up, along with stress and hormonal changes.
Naturally, these skin conditions can affect people in different ways and at different times. With both diseases, sufferers can experience times where they have no symptoms at all, but certain triggers can cause flare-ups. In some people, these are mild bouts of eczema or psoriasis, but others can suffer from severe episodes, which can greatly affect their quality of life, causing low self-esteem and even depression.
Whilst neither of these conditions are curable, there are a wide range of treatments available from your doctor or pharmacy.
In most cases of psoriasis, vitamin D or corticosteroid creams, gels and ointments are applied to the affected areas to reduce the inflammation and irritation. If this isn’t effective, patients can undergo phototherapy, where the skin is treated with ultraviolet light. Whereas in more extreme cases, oral and injected medications can be administered periodically.
With eczema, the main treatments are a broad range of emollient moisturisers that are applied directly onto the affected area. These provide a protective layer which helps to reduce water loss through the skin. Other treatments include topical corticosteroids in the form of ointments, gels and creams, which can be used to reduce the inflammation and soreness.
Your GP can prescribe you with corticosteroids and emollients or you can get some lower strength ones from your pharmacy, if your symptoms aren’t too severe. As with any health issue, it’s advised to consult with your doctor before using any new treatments.
To find out more about Oxford Online Pharmacy's Eczema treatment service, click here.