Skin conditions are a common problem that many people experience throughout their lifetime. Dermatitis and psoriasis are the two most commonly seen skin conditions, but they are often mistaken for one another due to their overlapping symptoms.
While dermatitis is primarily an inflammation of the skin, psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes inflamed, red patches of thick skin. Below are the differences between these two conditions in more detail and provide an overview of other related skin ailments.
What is dermatitis?
Dermatitis is a broad term to describe several types of skin inflammation. It can cause dryness, redness, itching and scaling on the surface of our skin. It is typically characterised by itching, redness, scaling and/or skin cracking. The most common types include
- Atopic dermatitis. This is the most common form of dermatitis, also known as eczema. It is a chronic condition that causes itchy, dry, and inflamed skin. Atopic dermatitis is often associated with allergies and asthma and is more common in individuals with a family history of these conditions.
- Contact dermatitis. This type of dermatitis occurs when the skin comes into contact with an irritant or allergen, such as a chemical, detergent, or poison ivy. It typically causes a rash, redness, itching, and burning at the site of contact.
- Seborrheic dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is characterised by red, scaly, and itchy patches of skin, typically on the scalp, face, and chest. It is believed to be caused by an overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands and is often accompanied by dandruff.
- Neurodermatitis. This type of dermatitis is characterised by itchy, scaly patches of skin caused by repeated scratching or rubbing. It is often associated with stress and anxiety and can appear on any body part.
- Stasis dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is caused by poor circulation in the legs and is characterised by red, itchy, and scaly patches of skin on the lower legs, ankles and feet. It can be caused by varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis and other circulatory problems.
- Dyshidrotic eczema. This type of dermatitis causes small, itchy blisters on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
It is important to note that some people may have more than one type of dermatitis and that the condition can change over time. Our dermatologists can help diagnose and identify the type of dermatitis you have and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
What causes dermatitis?
The exact cause of dermatitis is unknown but is thought to be triggered by an underlying condition or factors like allergies, irritants, genetics and stress. Allergens that trigger dermatitis vary greatly from person to person, but common ones include dust mites, mould spores, animal dander and certain foods.
Irritants like harsh soaps and detergents may also trigger an outbreak or worsen existing symptoms if you have sensitive skin.
Stress can also play a role in developing or worsening existing cases of dermatitis as it weakens our body’s natural ability to fight off infection, which can lead to flare-ups.
Treatment for dermatitis typically aims to reduce inflammation, relieve itching and prevent secondary skin infections. The specific treatment plan will depend on the type of dermatitis you have and the severity of the condition. Some common treatment options include
- Topical corticosteroids. These are creams or ointments that reduce inflammation and itching. They come in different strengths, and you can use them for short-term or intermittent treatment.
- Topical calcineurin inhibitors. These are creams or ointments that suppress your immune response and reduce inflammation. You can use them as an alternative to corticosteroids, particularly on your face and in children.
- Moisturisers. These are used to hydrate your skin and reduce dryness, which can aggravate dermatitis. To lock in moisture, you should apply them to the skin immediately after bathing.
- Antihistamines. These are usually taken orally. You can use these medications to relieve itching.
- Light therapy. This treatment uses ultraviolet light to help reduce inflammation and improve the appearance of your skin.
- Oral medications. In severe cases of dermatitis, your doctor may prescribe you oral medications such as immunosuppressants to help control the condition.
- Avoiding triggers. Identifying and avoiding things that trigger your symptoms is important for managing dermatitis. This may include avoiding certain soaps, detergents, and fabrics or limiting exposure to allergens.
Is psoriasis a form of dermatitis?
Dermatitis and psoriasis are both associated with skin conditions that cause significant discomfort, itching, and inflammation.
Dermatitis is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of skin conditions involving inflammation. Psoriasis is a type of dermatitis with similar symptoms but is more persistent and challenging to treat than other forms of dermatitis. It appears as thicker silver-coloured patches with red borders around them on the outside of the body such as the elbows or knees.
Both psoriasis and dermatitis can be triggered by external factors such as stress and allergens, but psoriasis is generally considered more serious due to its deeper-rooted causes and its ability to spread over large areas of skin on the body.
Types of psoriasis
Plaque psoriasis. This is the most common form of psoriasis, characterised by raised, red patches of skin covered with a silver or white buildup of dead skin cells. If you have plaque psoriasis, you can find the patches–called plaques–on your elbows, knees, scalp, or lower back.
Guttate psoriasis. Small, red, drop-like lesions characterise this type of psoriasis on the skin. It often develops suddenly, typically following a streptococcal infection, and is more common in children and young adults.
Inverse psoriasis. This type of psoriasis causes smooth, red patches in the folds of the skin, such as the armpits, groin, and under the breasts. It is often aggravated by friction and sweating.
Pustular psoriasis. This type of psoriasis is characterised by raised, red, scaly skin patches filled with pus. It can be localised to one area of the body or can be widespread.
Erythrodermic psoriasis. This is a rare and severe form of psoriasis that causes widespread redness and scaling of the skin. It can be accompanied by severe itching and pain and can also cause fever and chills.
Treatment for psoriasis is typically aimed at reducing inflammation and slowing the growth of skin cells. The specific treatment plan will depend on the type of psoriasis you have and the severity of the condition. Some common treatment options include
- Topical treatments. These include creams, ointments, and gels that you apply directly to your skin. They can include corticosteroids, vitamin D analogs, coal tar, and retinoids.
- Phototherapy. This treatment involves exposing your skin to controlled amounts of ultraviolet light. You can have this at our clinic after a consultation with our skin specialists. Ultraviolet B (UVB) and Psoralen + ultraviolet light A (PUVA) are the most common types of phototherapy.
- Oral medications. These include medications such as methotrexate, acitretin, and cyclosporine. You can use this for moderate to severe cases of psoriasis or when other treatments have failed.
- Biologics. These are medications that are made from living organisms and are given by injection or infusion. They target specific parts of your immune system to reduce inflammation. Examples of biologics include adalimumab, ustekinumab, and secukinumab.
- Lifestyle changes. Certain lifestyle changes can help improve your symptoms of psoriasis, such as avoiding smoking, managing stress, maintaining a healthy diet, and avoiding triggers such as alcohol, cold weather, and certain medications.
Treating Psoriasis at Enrich Clinic
Both dermatitis and psoriasis can significantly impact your quality of life. While self-care measures such as keeping skin moisturised, avoiding scratching and avoiding triggers can help manage your symptoms, remember that early detection and treatment of these conditions can help prevent complications and improve the outcome.
Talk to our skin specialists if you suspect you have any of these conditions or any concerns regarding your skin.