Fortunately, psoriasis is well-studied, and though there is no cure yet, doctors can offer help to children living with psoriasis.
Most children with the condition respond well to the available treatments, and many may go through life with few or only small flares.
Fast facts on psoriasis in children:
- Psoriasis is often a lifelong autoimmune disorder that targets the skin, nails, and scalp.
- Psoriasis in children is similar to psoriasis in adults.
- Psoriasis is measured by its severity.
- Symptoms may be difficult to spot in children as they resemble other childhood rashes.
What is psoriasis in children?
When a person has psoriasis, they will develop patches of red, scaly skin in different areas of their body. Over a lifetime, the patches will often flare or become worse and then go into remission.
Types of psoriasis in children
Psoriasis in adults and children may be itchy and painful.
There are several different types of psoriasis that affect children.
As with adults, the most common form of psoriasis in children is plaque psoriasis. It appears as well-defined patches or plaques with a silvery-white surface.
Often, the first place for these patches to occur in children is on the scalp.
Another common type of psoriasis to affect children is called guttate psoriasis.
This type is associated with several small, raindrop-like patches forming in large groups. When guttate psoriasis occurs in children and young teenagers, it is often the result of a secondary infection in the throat, such as strep throat.
Other upper respiratory infections are also common triggers for psoriasis to start. Though not always the case, guttate psoriasis may go away within a few months and not return.
Children will often develop flexural psoriasis. This term refers to the large, red patches of psoriasis that occurs around folds in the skin, such as at the joints.
How psoriasis differs in children and adults
The biggest difference between adult and child psoriasis is simply the age of onset. Otherwise, a child with psoriasis will experience many of the same symptoms and triggers as an adult.
Other potential differences in children include:
- the early age of onset before adolescence or adulthood
- greater psychological impact due to interactions with peers and maturity levels
- psoriasis patches tend to form around the scalp, buttocks, and face
What are the causes?
Potential triggers for psoriasis may include stress.
Researchers have been unable to conclude the exact cause of psoriasis.
Most tend to agree that there is a strong genetic link to the condition, meaning a person may pass it on to his or her children. Beyond that, researchers have determined it is likely to be caused by an abnormal functioning of the immune system.
Some triggers are known that may cause psoriasis for the first time or cause or worsen a flare. These potential triggers include:
- infection in the throat or upper respiratory tract
- reaction to medication
Particularly important for children is the fact that psoriasis is not infectious and cannot be transferred from one child to another.
There are a few symptoms that a person should look out for to help identify psoriasis. Some of the symptoms that help distinguish psoriasis from other conditions include:
- patches of red, scaly skin, often on the scalp, face, knees, elbows, and buttocks
- patches may be itchy, painful, or cause general discomfort
- patches are often symmetrical
- patches do not diminish without treatment
When to see a doctor
It is very important for children to see their doctor if an unexplained rash develops or persists.
Also, in the case of possible psoriasis, a parent should consider their own family history. If someone in the family has psoriasis, it can make it more likely that a new rash on a child is a result of the same condition.
While there is no known cure for psoriasis, treatment focuses on reducing the severity of a flare and helping with the emotional stress of having psoriasis. Some of the options include the following:
- topical therapy
- oral medications
Phototherapy involves the use of narrowband UVB on children, typically over the age of 10 years old. Mild cases of plaque or guttate psoriasis tend to respond best to phototherapy. Treatment is administered in a hospital, two to three times a week.
Topical therapy is used in most cases of psoriasis. Topical therapy involves the use of medicated creams and lotions. There is a variety to try, such as tar, vitamin D, and topical corticosteroids.
Topical therapies are often all that is needed to treat mild to moderate cases of psoriasis.
Oral medications are sometimes another option to help treat psoriasis in children. Typically, these are used for short periods and are often prescribed for more severe cases of psoriasis.
Alternative treatments and lifestyle remedies
Potential alternative treatments for psoriasis may include soaking in a Dead Sea salt bath.
There are some alternative treatments available for children with psoriasis. These often involve natural remedies or holistic approaches to health and wellness with psoriasis in mind.
For parents seeking alternatives to medicated creams, there are some more natural treatments that can be tried. Many alternative treatments are from natural sources and come in the form of creams and oils.
While some adults report improvement of their symptoms with these more natural treatments, they have not been studied when used in children.
People should be careful of allergic reactions or worsening rashes when using topical treatments.
When any treatment is being taken orally, it is best to talk to the doctor who is treating a child beforehand.
Some potential alternative treatments include:
- soaking in Dead Sea salt baths
- aloe vera
- oat baths
- apple cider vinegar
- tea tree oil
Additionally, some parents may seek emotional therapy for a child with psoriasis. While this type of therapy does not address the psoriasis directly, it can play a useful role in helping a child adjust to feelings of embarrassment and anxiety.
Additional steps to take involve improving a child’s overall health. It is important for children with psoriasis to eat a balanced and healthful diet, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly. These steps may help the child reduce the occurrence of flares or their severity.
Children with psoriasis are likely to have the condition for the rest of their life.
In cases of mild to moderate psoriasis, there are no major medical complications. In more severe cases, children with psoriasis may develop psoriatic arthritis.
It is important to take into account a child’s emotional well-being while treating psoriasis and be empathetic to the stressors that they may feel because of their skin condition.