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Dermatitis, Eczema, Psoriasis, so what's the difference

When presented with a persistent skin rash or inflammation of the skin, it is sometimes tricky to determine conclusively if it is a condition of dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis. A look at the medical history and symptoms and perhaps a skin test will help in its diagnosis and treatment.


Dermatitis is a general term that describes inflammation of the skin caused by contact with specific irritant or allegy. The skin becomes inflamed from exposure to chemicals, acids, soaps and detergents. One can also develop a sensitivity or allergy to substance such as nickel, metals, fragrances, causing a skin rash on the area in contact. Itching is the first symptom. Very often, the skin condition improves when irritant or allergy is removed. Extreme persistent itchiness may signal eczema.


Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, causes itchy patches that become red, swollen or cracked on the face, inside the elbows, behind the knees and on hands and feet. The exact cause is still unknown but is often linked to genetics and environmental factors. Allergy or hypersensitivity to certain allergens can trigger a flare up. It is important to identify and avoid them. The allergic condition often appears in babies and children and may go away by age two or last through adulthood. Common household cleansers, detergents, soaps, chlorine and wool or stress are often eczema triggers. Some atopic dermatitis is long lasting or chronic and tend to flare periodically and then subside. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.


Psoriasis is a skin problem that causes skin cells to grow too quickly resulting in thick, white, silvery or red patches of skin. Experts believe that psoriasis occurs when the immune system overreacts causing inflammation and flaking of skin. They are itchy, sore and even burn and are often located on the outside of elbows and knees. It affects the scalp and nails too. Stress, cold weather, skin damage and certain medications can trigger psoriais. It doesn't usually appear before age 10 and are more common in adults.

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