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How Do I Tell the Difference between Eczema and Dry Skin?

By Angela Crout-Mitchell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many similarities between eczema and dry skin, but there are many differences as well. Some of the differences are the causes of each condition, the common symptoms, and how they should be treated. It is not unusual for dry skin and eczema to appear separately or in conjunction with each other. Both conditions can be treated successfully with natural ingredients as well as with commercially produced or prescription products. Patients often have to try several different types of treatments to find the most appropriate one for their needs.

The causes of dry skin include mild dehydration, genetic markers, and skin irritation caused by the environment or intolerance of a specific soap or skin care product. Both eczema and dry skin may also be the result of over-bathing or bathing or showering in very hot water because both are known to dry out the skin. Eczema is believed to be caused by a mild to moderate autoimmune disorder that causes the skin to react in a manner similar to an allergic reaction. Scientific researchers are still looking for a more definitive answer in regards to the cause of this common skin condition.

Eczema and dry skin have very specific symptoms that often differ wildly from one another. While eczema resembles dry skin, it has unique symptoms, such as the appearance of fluid-filled blisters and red rashes not common to the garden variety dry skin. Dry skin usually feels tight and stretched, while eczema affected skin may actually secrete moisture from its blisters or lesions. Eczema usually causes severe itching as well as cracked and bleeding skin in some cases. Common dry skin is typically less painful and does not manifest with cracking, blisters, or sores.

Some products for dry skin are effective at treating eczema symptoms, but it is far more common for eczema patients to require different products for relief. Treating dry skin can usually be accomplished with behavior changes, such as drinking more water, bathing in moderate temperature water, and applying lotion for dry skin. The same methods can be used to treat eczema, but most people will be advised to use eczema specific topical ointments for the best results. Some experts suggest dietary changes, including limiting dairy products, in an effort to control eczema symptoms. Eczema and dry skin can usually be controlled with the appropriate treatments, although eczema patients frequently seek medical advice for effective, long term care.

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Discussion Comments

By fBoyle — On Mar 08, 2013

@literally45-- Eczema is identified by patches, whereas psoriasis is identified by scales.

Both eczema and psoriasis have to do with the immune system. Dry skin can be a symptom of both of these conditions but it's always accompanied by other symptoms. Itchy, dry skin by itself is usually caused by environmental factors like climate.

Psoriasis doesn't cause blisters as far as I know, it causes areas of dry scaly skin. Eczema causes very red inflamed, flaky skin with or without blisters. Skin with eczema is usually red, but skin with psoriasis can also have a red, or white appearance.

By literally45 — On Mar 08, 2013

What's the difference between dry skin, eczema and psoriasis?

By SarahGen — On Mar 07, 2013
It's relatively easy to tell the symptoms of dry skin and eczema apart when there are blisters, but not everyone with eczema experiences this.

I have mild eczema and get blisters every so often. When I first developed the condition though, I didn't have any blisters and I thought that I was just experiencing severe dry skin. I had typical dry skin symptoms-- my skin was tight, flaky and slightly red and itchy.

I had blisters come on much later and it was at this time that I went to the dermatologist and was diagnosed with eczema.

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