Psoriasis on the elbows presents as raised, inflamed, scaly patches of skin with defined edges. Eczema on the elbows typically causes less defined patches of dry, bumpy, rash-like skin, more commonly on the inner creases.

This article discusses the differences and similarities between psoriasis and eczema on the elbows in terms of symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. It also answers some frequently asked questions about the conditions.

Psoriasis and eczema are different conditions that share several similarities. Both conditions involve the immune system and have triggers that can cause symptoms to flare. Neither condition is contagious.


Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease that causes inflammation in the body and speeds up skin cell production. The skin cells build up and manifest as raised, inflamed, scaly patches of skin that typically have defined edges and can be mildly itchy.

Psoriasis affects over 7.5 million adults over age 20 in the United States (U.S.). However, it is important to note that psoriasis can occur at any age, but symptoms typically present between ages 15 and 25.

Read more about psoriasis on the elbows.


Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that presents as dry, itchy skin rashes and blisters. It can lead to skin infections. There are several types of eczema, and each type has an individual set of symptoms.

Eczema affects more than 31 million people in the U.S. It can affect anyone at any age, including newborns, as early as a few weeks following birth.

Psoriasis and eczema on the elbows can both be dry and itchy. However, typically, a person with psoriasis on the elbows will experience more intense itching than a person with eczema on the elbows.


Symptoms of psoriasis on the elbows can include:

  • patches of thick raised skin with defined edges called plaques
  • discolored, scaly patches
  • dry, itchy skin
  • a burning sensation
  • inflammation
  • soreness
  • cracking and bleeding

In people with lighter skin tones, psoriasis tends to appear red or pink with silvery-white scales. In people with darker skin tones, it is more likely to appear pink or violet with gray scales. It can also appear dark brown, making it difficult to see.

When psoriasis clears on darker skin, a person may see lighter or darker patches of skin where psoriasis once was.


Eczema symptoms on the elbows can include:

  • dry, itchy, sensitive, scaly skin
  • patches of thick, rough, and hardened skin
  • possible weeping resulting in oozing or crusting
  • inflammation and swelling

Eczema can appear red on lighter skin tones and ashen, gray, darker brown, or purple on darker skin tones.

Eczema may begin during childhood, adolescence, or adulthood. It affects male and female children similarly but is more prevalent in adult women.

Psoriasis can start at any age, but it most often develops in adults between the ages of 20 and 30 or 50 and 60. It affects men and women equally.

Psoriasis and eczema on the elbows can run in the family. Both conditions involve the immune system and can flare up when a person encounters various triggers.

Eczema on the elbowsPsoriasis on the elbows
Causes• an overactive immune system

• genetics

• various triggers
• immune system

• genetics

• various triggers
Triggers• stress

• household chemicals and detergents

• environmental allergens such as hay fever

• cold, dry, or extremely hot weather conditions

• skin care and personal care products

• metals, such as nickel

• fabrics, such as wool or polyester

• food allergies
• stress

• injury to the skin, such as sunburn or cuts

• infections

• some medications

• cold, dry weather

• smoking

• excess alcohol or certain foods

• some vaccinations
Risk factors• genetics and family history

• environmental factors

• if a person has allergies

• a preexisting immune system disorder
• genetics and family history

• obesity

• diabetes

• hypertension

• pollution

• stress and anxiety

To diagnose psoriasis or eczema on the elbows, doctors may do the following:

  • examine the skin
  • ask about a person’s medical and family history of the condition
  • identify any possible triggers
Eczema on the elbowsPsoriasis on the elbows
How does a dermatologist diagnose the condition?• examines the rash

• asks a person about the presence of itching

• asks a person about the time of onset of their eczema

• ask if flares typically follow any patterns

• requests a full medical and family history of eczema

• identifies possible triggers
• examines the skin

• asks if a person is experiencing itching or a burning sensation on the elbows

• asks if a person has recently been unwell or been under stress

• asks about any medications

• requests a full medical and family history of psoriasis

• asks if a person is experiencing joint tenderness

• identifies any possible triggers

A person can manage psoriasis and eczema by making certain lifestyle changes, including moisturizing the skin, managing stress, and avoiding known triggers.

Medical treatments can also help a person treat symptoms of both psoriasis and eczema on the elbows.

Eczema on the elbowsPsoriasis on the elbows
What are some alternative therapies or lifestyle changes?• keep skin well moisturized

• follow a diet that includes anti-inflammatory foods

manage stress

wet wrap therapy

light therapy

• avoid known triggers
• keep skin well moisturized

• maintain a moderate weight

stop smoking if a person smokes

moderate alcohol consumption

wet wrap therapy

• limit sunlight exposure


manage stress
What are some medical treatments?

• pain relievers

topical JAK inhibitor (over the counter and prescription)

topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs)

topical PDE4 inhibitors

• topical steroids (over-the-counter and prescription)

• medicated shampoos

biologics (prescription)

• immunosuppressants (prescription)

phototherapy (prescription)
topical steroids

topical therapies, including vitamin D, retinoids, and tar products

• topical TCIs

methotrexate (prescription)

retinoids (prescription)

biologics (prescription)

• JAK inhibitors (prescription)

• immunosuppressants

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about psoriasis and eczema.

How do I know if I have psoriasis on my elbows?

If someone has well-defined patches of dry, itchy, discolored skin on the elbows that appear in response to certain triggers, they may have psoriasis on the elbows.

What does eczema look like on elbows?

Eczema on the elbows can look like a dry skin rash that may be red, gray, violet, or brown depending on a person’s skin tone. It more commonly develops on the inner crease of the elbow, but it can appear on the outer elbow.

Can you mistake psoriasis for eczema?

The untrained eye may mistake psoriasis for eczema as they share several symptoms, including dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. A person can get guidance from a doctor or dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis.

Psoriasis and eczema on the elbows share several similarities. They both cause dry, itchy, inflamed skin that can flare with various triggers.

Environmental factors and family history can lead to both psoriasis and eczema on the elbows. Lifestyle changes and treatments, including keeping skin moisturized, managing stress, and applying topical creams, can help treat both conditions.

There are key differences between psoriasis and eczema on the elbows, including appearance, likely age of onset, probability, and itch intensity.

A dermatologist can easily differentiate between the two conditions. After a full examination, they can determine which condition a person may have.