Eczema can make your skin itchy and red. Psoriasis can, too, but the two conditions are hardly the same. Although the exact cause of eczema is unknown, experts suspect that it’s related to allergies, as it often occurs in people who also have hay fever. Psoriasis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that causes skin cells to grow too quickly.

To figure out which skin issue a person has and treat it correctly, doctors tend to rely on clues like the patient’s age (eczema is more common in children) and slight differences in appearance (psoriasis causes thicker patches and more inflammation). Doctors sometimes also opt to take a skin biopsy, which entails removing a small piece of skin so it can be analyzed. But a new test may one day make the diagnostic process a whole lot easier.

The test involves something called “skin stripping”: Doctors apply an adhesive disk to the skin for 30 seconds before peeling it off — at the same time removing very superficial layers of skin cells. Those cells are then sent to a lab for analysis to determine which proteins they contain.

According to a new, small study, 18 (out of 220) proteins were expressed differently in people with psoriasis versus those with eczema. One protein in particular, IL-36-gamma, was highly indicative of having psoriasis.

Study co-author Anna Berekmeri, MD, of Leeds University Hospital in England, said this study — which was presented at the recent Inflammatory Skin Disease Summit in Vienna — suggested that elevated levels of IL-36-gamma could be used to diagnosis psoriasis, MedPage Today reported, though skin biopsy remains the gold standard for now.

This study only involved 35 patients with psoriasis and 21 with eczema (plus 23 control subjects who had normal, healthy skin), so more research is needed.

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