Do You Have Rosacea, Psoriasis, or Eczema?

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Rashes, bumps, redness, itching—these issues can indicate a number of skin conditions, including rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema. While the symptoms may seem generic—and perhaps in mild cases not warrant much attention—it's worth seeing a healthcare provider to get a formal diagnosis, particularly if they persist. While rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema tend to be chronic conditions, they're rarely life-threatening. However, they can lead to complications if left untreated.

This primer can help you sort out the differences between these three potential look-alikes.


Rosacea is more common among people who are 30- to 50-years-old and fair-skinned. It's slightly more common in women versus men. Even so, rosacea can develop at any age, even during childhood.

Symptoms of Rosacea

Rosacea primarily occurs on the face and causes symptoms like easy and severe blushing or flushing, hotness, redness, bumps, and swelling. These symptoms often come and go, with periods of time when they're more severe and times when they're milder.

In addition, the symptoms of rosacea typically follow a pattern. Initially, the central areas of the face are affected, with flushing spreading over time to the cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose. Rosacea can even spread to include the eyes, ears, chest, and back.

With the areas of redness on the face, tiny blood vessels, pimples, and/or pustules crop up, but no blackheads appear. This can help distinguish rosacea from acne.

Over time with rosacea, the blood vessels on a person's face become enlarged, making the redness a more visible, albeit harmless, condition.

It's worth noting that more than half of people with rosacea develop a problem called ocular rosacea, in which the eyes sting, burn, and feel gritty. If Ieft untreated, this may lead to problems with vision.

Lastly, rosacea may eventually lead to thickening of the skin, most commonly of the nose (called rhinophyma). Rhinophyma tends to strike men who have had rosacea for years and may become disfiguring enough to require surgery.

Rosacea Triggers

Scientists are still trying to understand the underlying causes of rosacea, but common triggers include:

  • Temperature extremes or changes
  • Sunburn
  • Stress
  • Menstruation
  • Personal care products and cosmetics that contain alcohol
  • Scrubbing of the face
  • Hot beverages
  • Spicy foods
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Certain medications

Rosacea Treatments

A variety of topical treatments may be helpful in treating rosacea, including:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-yeast creams
  • Azelaic acid
  • Topical ivermectin (Soolantra, Sklice)

Topical steroid creams can worsen rosacea and are not generally used. In cases when they are recommended, they should only be used for short bursts (no more than two weeks at a time) to decrease redness.

Laser treatment or electrodesiccation—use of a tiny needle that delivers electricity to the blood vessel to destroy it—may also improve symptoms.

Lastly, blood pressure medications like beta-blockers and Catapres (clonidine) are sometimes helpful in reducing flushing associated with rosacea.


When you have psoriasis, your immune system treats your skin like a foreign invader, attacking and damaging it.

Psoriasis can develop at any age, even during childhood. It tends to run in families and waxes and wanes in severity over the course of a lifetime.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

The most common form of psoriasis is called plaque psoriasis, in which areas of the skin become covered by thick, red patches (the so-called plaques), topped by a silvery-white scale. It can occur anywhere on the skin but usually affects the elbows, knees, and scalp. The areas where plaques form can be itchy and tender.

Plaque psoriasis can also affect the scalp, causing it to become very scaly, resembling dandruff. Nails, too, may be targeted and if so, they may become pitted, ridged, and loose.

Other forms of psoriasis have other notable features:

  • Guttate psoriasis: This type of psoriasis causes small, tear-drop shaped, salmon-pink spots to appear on the skin. The spots most often form on the trunk, arms, and legs, but can also cover the entire body.
  • Pustular psoriasis: With this type of psoriasis, a person develops inflamed, red skin covered with pus-filled bumps often found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
  • Inverse psoriasis: Like the name, this type of psoriasis causes lesions that are not scaly but instead are smooth, red, and shiny. Unlike plaque psoriasis, the areas of skin affected by inverse psoriasis are usually areas of skin folds, such as armpits, under the breasts, and/or the groin area.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis: This is a rare, potentially severe form of psoriasis that causes widespread redness, swelling, and itching all over the body. In extreme cases, complications like dehydration, overwhelming infection, and congestive heart failure may cause this condition to become life-threatening.

A form of arthritis called psoriatic arthritis is a potentially debilitating complication that develops in about 10% to 20% of people with psoriasis. While this joint condition affects people in unique ways, a few classic symptoms include prolonged morning stiffness, fatigue, and sausage-shaped fingers and/or toes (called dactylitis).

Psoriasis Triggers 

You may be surprised to learn that infections are frequent triggers of psoriasis flares, especially strep infections, which are highly correlated with guttate psoriasis.

Other possible triggers for psoriasis include:

  • Skin injury
  • Severely dry skin
  • Stress
  • Taking certain medications, like lithium or an interferon

Psoriasis Treatments

A variety of topical treatments may help improve symptoms of psoriasis, including:

Exposure to ultraviolet light may improve symptoms, whether it's natural, outdoor sunlight, or a special lamp/light at a healthcare provider's office.

Severe psoriasis may require treatment with powerful medications that suppress your immune system, such as:


Eczema (also known as atopic dermatitis) can develop at any age, even during infancy. It usually begins before age 5. About 50% of children will still experience eczema in adulthood, but it typically gets milder with age.

Eczema tends to run in families, especially those prone to allergies and asthma.

Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema is believed to be the result of excessive inflammation that evolves into a cycle of redness and itching, as scratching and rubbing only aggravate the skin further. Affected areas may become cracked, discolored, blistered, crusty, or scaly, and may weep clear fluid. People with eczema are at an increased risk for developing skin infections, especially with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus.

Eczema can crop up anywhere, although common areas are in skin folds and on the cheeks, backs of the hands, tops of the arms, and fronts of the legs.

Eczema Triggers

Triggers for eczema include:

  • Temperature changes
  • Dry skin
  • Irritants (for example, wool, dyes, cosmetics, perfumes, and soaps)
  • Foods, especially the major allergens (i.e., eggs, peanuts, fish, soy, wheat, and dairy)
  • Stress
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen
  • Animal dander

Eczema Treatments

When you have eczema, it's important to keep your skin clean and well-moisturized. Take short, warm (not hot) showers and use a non-soap cleanser. Applying a moisturizer to the entire body within three minutes of getting out of the shower can go a long way in protecting your skin's barrier.

When skin care is not enough, topical steroids can improve redness and itching, but should only be used for short periods of time. Topical prescription medications like Elidel (pimecrolimus) and Protopic (tacrolimus) can improve itching and redness. Oral antihistamines may also be helpful.

In severe cases of eczema, oral steroids—Trexall (methotrexate), Sandimmune (cyclosporine), Dupixent (dupilumab), or Imuran (azathioprine)—might be needed.

A Word From Verywell

Rosacea, psoriasis, and eczema are common skin problems with some shared—and some unique—symptoms, triggers, and treatments. Aside from evaluating these issues, your healthcare provider will also consider other skin conditions that mimic these three. As some can be more serious, a professional evaluation is best.

Was this page helpful?
12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea.

  2. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea: signs and symptoms.

  3. Laun J, Gopman J, Elston JB, Harrington MA. Rhinophyma. Eplasty.

  4. American Academy of Dermatology. Triggers could be causing your rosacea flare-ups.

  5. American Academy of Dermatology. Rosacea treatments: acne-like breakouts.

  6. American Academy of Dermatology. Psoriasis: causes.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Psoriasis.

  8. American Academy of Dermatology. Medication and lights.

  9. American Academy of Dermatology. Atopic dermatitis: diagnosis and treatment.

  10. Friedman BC, Goldman RD. Anti-staphylococcal treatment in dermatitis. Can Fam Physician.

  11. American Academy of Dermatology. Triggers.

  12. Hajar T, Gontijo JRV, Hanifin JM. New and developing therapies for atopic dermatitis. An Bras Dermatol. 2018;93(1):104-107. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20187682

Additional Reading