How to Identify Psoriasis Vs. Folliculitis

If you’ve noticed a rash or discoloration on your skin, you may be wondering if you’re experiencing one of these conditions. In this article, we’ll look at the differences between psoriasis and folliculitis, how to tell them apart, and what other skin conditions you might be experiencing.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the skin. It triggers the rapid buildup of skin cells. In addition to skin lesions, psoriasis symptoms may include:

  • raised, red scaly patches or plaques that may be small or widespread
  • dry and cracked skin
  • bleeding skin
  • itching
  • burning
  • swollen joints
  • stiffness in bones and joints
  • nails that are thickened, pitted, or ridged

Psoriasis is a chronic condition. It has no cure, but you may experience periods when symptoms improve.

Psoriasis may increase your risk of developing certain diseases like:

  • psoriatic arthritis
  • obesity
  • type 2 diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome
  • cardiovascular disease
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • other autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
  • eye conditions like conjunctivitis

Researchers aren’t sure what causes psoriasis. But the following may put you at increased risk:

  • smoking
  • skin injuries
  • obesity
  • infections, usually more severe types
  • stress
  • certain medications, like beta-blockers and antimalarial drugs
  • family history of psoriasis
  • HIV

What is folliculitis?

Folliculitis is the inflammation or infection of hair follicles. These follicles are most often infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Folliculitis may occur anywhere on the skin. Folliculitis is common on the scalp, where hair follicles are abundant.

Folliculitis begins as small, pimple-like bumps that spread and turn into crusty sores. Other symptoms may include:

  • pus-filled blisters that may erupt and ooze pus
  • itching
  • burning skin
  • pain
  • a large bump or mass

Anyone can get folliculitis. Your risk increases if any of the following apply:

  • you have a medical condition that suppresses the immune system like HIV or chronic leukemia
  • you have acne or dermatitis
  • you’ve experienced a previous skin injury
  • you’re overweight
  • you frequently wear tight, restrictive clothing

How do psoriasis and folliculitis differ?

Despite some similarities between psoriasis and folliculitis, there are some major differences as seen below.

Psoriasis treatment

There are several treatments for psoriasis. These may include:

  • moisturizers to combat dry skin
  • coal tar products to soften skin and help remove scales
  • topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and itching
  • retinoids to help reduce inflammation
  • salicylic acid to slough skin and reduce scaling
  • light therapy
  • oral and injected medications
Folliculitis treatment

Self-care remedies are often an effective treatment for folliculitis. These may include:

  • warm compresses
  • oatmeal baths or lotions
  • keeping the affected area clean
  • avoiding irritating triggers

When self-care isn’t enough, your doctor may prescribe topical or oral antibiotics. Infections caused by fungus are treated with antifungal medication.

What else could it be?

If you’ve noticed a rash or bumps on your skin, it could also be something else. Here are conditions with some similar or overlapping symptoms to psoriasis and folliculitis.

  • seborrheic dermatitis, which can occur on oilier areas of your body, like the scalp, upper chest, and face
  • ringworm, or dermatophytosis, dermatophyte infection, or tinea, a type of fungal infection
  • lichen planus, a skin rash triggered by the immune system
  • eczema, which comes in a number of forms with multiple causes
  • contact dermatitis, which is usually caused by environmental irritant or allergen
  • pityriasis rosea, a type of rash that researchers believe may be a type of viral infection
  • scabies, which is highly contagious and caused by a mite known as the Sarcoptes scabiei
  • acne, often caused by clogged pores due to hormones, bacteria, excess oil production, and more

When to contact your doctor about psoriasis or folliculitis

Contact your doctor if you have symptoms of psoriasis. If you’ve received a psoriasis diagnosis, contact your doctor if:

  • you experience a widespread flare
  • your symptoms are worse than usual
  • you show signs of infection like fever, increased pain, or swelling

If you have an unexplained rash or suspect you have folliculitis, consult your doctor. Also seek medical help if you’ve received a folliculitis diagnosis and your symptoms recur frequently, worsen, or last longer than a few days.

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