Eczema and Psoriasis
Eczema or psoriasis should be taken seriously. You probably know someone in your own life that suffers from eczema or psoriasis – regular itchy, uncomfortable, red skin patches that become inflamed and uncomfortable, or that even begin to bleed upon constant itching and aggravation. And while the condition is certainly uncomfortable, it is not uncommon. It typically affects individuals starting at a young age – as early as infancy – and 1 in 5 infants are diagnosed with the condition. While it can occur in adults, it is typically not developed later in life and those that have it as a child tend to outgrow it with age.
For some people, it is hereditary and is carried in the genetics, while for others it can be developed as an allergy, exhibiting symptoms when consuming things such as dairy or certain food additives. For others still, can be a symptom of environmental factors such as pollution, pollen or certain chemicals. There is no cure for eczema, but it can be effectively treated and managed.
The difference between eczema and psoriasis
Closely related to eczema, is another common skin condition, called psoriasis. Eczema is atopic dermatitis, whereby patches of skin become inflamed, itchy and red. In contrast, psoriasis, while still affecting the skin, is an autoimmune disease, characterized by patches of abnormal skin. They vary in severity, ranging from small spots to large scaly patches, which grace most of the body, and as an autoimmune condition there is no cure, and it is much more complex than eczema.
What is Psoriasis all about?
Occurring in five main types, Psoriasis is thought to be a genetic disease, which is triggered by environmental factors. It affects 2-4% of the population and men and women are affected equally.
In contrast to eczema, psoriasis typically affects individuals starting in adulthood, as opposed to childhood, and is associated with an increased risk of psoriatic arthritis, lymphoma, cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease and depression.
Common Types of Psoriasis
The most common type of psoriasis, plaque psoriasis, presents as small to large, well-demarcated red, scaly spots, with thickened areas of skin. It typically occurs on the elbows, knees and lower back, but can occur in any area. While this is the type that can be quite well managed and improved with topical treatments, it is difficult to completely clear up and eliminate. For some individuals, it occurs as chronic plaque psoriasis, with large plaque, or small plaque, and can be localized (in one or two main spots), or generalized (occurring mostly all over the body in different areas). For others, it occurs as inverse psoriasis, another type, which shows up often exclusively in the folds and recesses of the skin, such as ears, groin, nave and lips.
The next type of psoriasis is guttate psoriasis, which is a type that presents as small lesions on the upper torso and on the extremities. It is found very often in young adults, and typically is triggered by a bacterial infection, especially an upper respiratory tract infection, such as strep throat. After the throat or respiratory infection has been eliminated, the affected individual will begin to see small, slightly itchy spots, which may increase in size and spread to different areas of the body. The spots remain quite small, and similar to plaque psoriasis, this type can typically be treated with topical creams. Regular occurrence of respiratory infections or susceptibility to throat infections may cause individuals to experience gutatte psoriasis with increasing frequency. Finding the cause of the respiratory issues is an important step in helping to reduce the incidence of guttate psoriasis.
While psoriasis is typically treated via topical corticosteroid creams, continuously administered for a period of weeks, there are other treatment options available. For some individuals, moisturizers and emollients such as mineral oil or petroleum jelly can help relieve psoriasis patches, as they help increase the moisture content of the affected area. Even more effective are emollients, which also offer anti-inflammatory properties.
For those who do not respond to topical solutions, phototherapy, or light exposure is a common treatment option. This involves exposing the skin to light at specific wavelengths, for a specific amount of time, with the amount of light, variable for each individual based on his or her skin type. All UV light therapies however – like tanning beds – have their associated risks, and this may not be the best treatment option for all individuals.
Cases of psoriasis that do not respond to phototherapy or topical treatment may require the use of systemic treatments, such as injectibles or orally administered medications. These options are typically drugs, which act as an immune system suppressant, reducing the activity of the immune system, such that it doesn’t attack the body and cause psoriatic outbreaks. This is not without risks however, as suppressing the immune system means it is less able to respond to issues which require immune fighting abilities, such as infections, viruses, bacterial invasion etc.
Finally, it is worth noting that psoriasis can often be controlled with dietary changes. Avoiding common allergens, such as gluten and lactose, reducing intake of processed foods and red meat, as well as increasing intake of healthy fats are all positive changes which can have beneficial effects in helping individuals reduce their outbreaks of psoriasis.
What is Eczema all about?
Eczema is a condition, which can present with varying degrees of skin issues, as it lies in the body, waiting to be triggered. Individuals will develop eczema, typically as a genetic inheritance from a parent, and when the skin barrier is damaged, by something such as dry skin, a cut, scratch, or sunburn, moisture will evaporate, leaving the skin more susceptible to allergens and irritants. In those individuals not affected by eczema, these allergens would likely have no effect (and in fact would not even be an allergen at all). In those with eczema however, the allergens trigger an allergic reaction in the skin, causing it to release certain chemicals, which causes the skin to become itchy. The itchy skin, when scratched, releases more chemicals, gets even itchier, and hence the scratch and itch cycle is initiated, often resulting in the individual having red, patches of dry skin, which can even start bleeding depending on the severity.
The triggers are different for everyone, but some of the known triggers include viral or bacterial infections; swimming and chlorinated pools; beach sand, or playing in sandy pits; irritants, such as perfumes, soap and chemicals; woolen or synthetic fabrics or temperature changes such as overly heated rooms.
While most eczema follows the same path of development, as detailed above, there are different types of eczema which exist. Allergenic or contact eczema occurs from contact with said above allergens, and when it occurs in specific areas, has different names. For example, occurring on the head, it is known as neurodermatitis, or occurring on the palms of the hands is called dyshidrotic eczema. Nummular eczema involves circular patches of irritated skin, while seborrheic eczema presents as oily, yellowy skin, and stasis dermatitis is typically related to circulatory problems.
In addition to understanding different types of eczema, it is important to understand different types of treatment. There is no cure for eczema. Treatment for the condition aims to heal the affected skin area and reduce discomfort for the individual. As such, people will likely have different treatment alternatives, which work for them.
Some of the options include:
1.Regular moisturizing and applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing to help lock in the moisture from the shower;
2.Wearing cotton and soft fabrics, and avoiding those with itchy fabrics, or skin tight clothing;
3.Avoiding rapid changes in temperature, taking regular warm baths and using a humidifier in dry or cold weather.
4.Using medicated cream to treat eczema. There are several medications that can be prescribed to help treat eczema symptoms, including topical corticosteroid creams and ointments, or systemic corticosteroids taken orally. Antibiotics or medications may be required to treat underlying bacterial or viral issues, which may be leading to the eczema outbreak.
5. Finally, for some individuals, simply finding the right moisturizer, especially barrier repair moisturizers is the key to successfully treating and reducing eczema issues.
It is important to remember, that just like all other autoimmune diseases, psoriasis presents differently in everybody and can take on many different forms. For some people it may look like small spots, others large patches, some scaly areas of skin, others large thickened, raised patches. Regardless of the type, with proper dedication and knowledge, individuals can manage and control disease and not have it become a debilitating component of everyday life.
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