Researchers Find A Much Gentler Way To Diagnose Eczema & Psoriasis

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Man Touching His Forearm With Hand On Pink Background

Eczema and psoriasis, while often coupled together, have slight nuances that make them difficult to diagnose with a simple once-over (not to mention eczema and psoriasis can look totally different on different patients). So much so, that it usually takes a skin biopsy to figure it out: A doctor will remove a patch of infected skin to check out under a microscope; that way, they can measure the slight differences at the cellular level. 

And yes, removing a patch of inflamed, itchy skin is as painful as it sounds. While it's necessary for determining the right treatment, the process can be quite dreadful for already suffering patients—sometimes, all that poking and prodding can even worsen the symptoms, which is why researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hoped to find a different way to diagnose eczema and psoriasis patients, one that wouldn't further anger their flare-ups. Here's what they found. 

A new way to diagnose inflammatory skin disorders. 

"In the past, skin tissue biopsies have always been considered the gold standard for distinguishing between inflammatory skin diseases, but they can cause pain, scarring, and increased risk of infection," says Emma Guttman-Yassky, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in a news release. This new study hoped to use adhesive tape strips as a way gentler alternative—the friction might be a bit uncomfortable on inflamed skin, yes, but it should be loads better than an invasive skin biopsy.

As depicted in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers evaluated tape strips from 20 adults with atopic dermatitis (or eczema), 20 adults with psoriasis, and 20 healthy individuals. After collecting all the tape strips, they examined the DNA from each group of skin cells to see if there were any common biomarkers with each disease.

Lo and behold, they found some indicators: Namely, a single gene called nitride oxide synthase 2 (NOS2) that could differentiate between the two disorders. Eczema and psoriasis, while both inflammatory conditions, require slightly different types of immune responses, and the skin cells were able to reflect those specific characteristics as well. Just by looking at these detailed tape strips, they were able to diagnose each skin disease with 100% accuracy—meaning, the tape strips were effective in diagnosing the right disorder, eczema or psoriasis, every single time. 

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What's next?

So, these tape strips aren't a thing just yet, but Guttman-Yassky and her team are hopeful that these results spark some new methods, or at the very least some further investigation. Mark Lebwohl, M.D., chair of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai agrees: "The results of this study may help provide a useful alternative to the invasive method of skin biopsies to track cutaneous disease activity in future clinical trials," he says in a news release. Meaning, more studies with more patients to make sure these tape strips are just as effective as they are gentle.

Regardless, the results are promising. Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis are already irritating to deal with (in more ways than one); if there's a way to make the diagnosing process less of a drag, we're certainly here for it.

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