Psoriasis normally develops after age 15 but it can develop at any age. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 20,000 children under the age of ten are diagnosed with psoriasis every year. Most children who develop this autoimmune disease have a family history of psoriasis, although rarely it does occur without any family history.
The exact cause of psoriasis is not known, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genes and environmental factors. It is understood that the immune system is triggered and causes skin cell development to speed up. Normally, skin cells take about a month to raise to the surface of the skin and then be sloughed off. However, in psoriasis, skin cell development only takes a few days. The cells pile up, causing plaques.
Differences Between Adult and Childhood Psoriasis
There are two main types of psoriasis in children: plaque psoriasis and Guttate psoriasis.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common type, as with adults, however, the plaques are thinner and are often red and shiny rather than flaky. It usually appears on the elbows, knees, lower back and scalp. It may also appear on the face, armpit, groin and back of knees.
Guttate psoriasis is usually triggered by the Streptococcus bacteria, which causes strep throat. This type of psoriasis resembles a rash, with small scaly patches. This type usually is found on the trunk, limbs and sometimes the scalp. It normally clears up but may take several months to do so. For some, this is a one-time psoriasis outbreak but for others it will reappear, usually after a sore throat. Not everyone that has Guttate psoriasis goes on to develop plaque psoriasis, but some people do.
Treatment for Childhood Psoriasis
No matter what the age, most people with psoriasis begin treatment with topical treatments applied directly to the plaques or rash. These include:
- Prescription cortisteroids
- Vitamin D creams
- Shampoos made with salicylic acid or coal tar
For many people, these types of treatment effectively manage the psoriasis. To further help reduce itchiness, adding oils to bath water can help.
When topical treatments don’t help, your doctor may prescribe light therapy or oral medications. Depending on the age of your child, some treatments may not be available as not all psoriasis treatments have been approved for young children by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In addition to medical treatments, there are a number of ways you can help your child feel more comfortable:
- Use cotton clothing, underwear and bed linens. These tend to cause the least aggravation.
- Use care when applying topical treatments.
- For school age children, talk to your child’s teacher about any special needs, such as going to the nurse or applying moisturizer throughout the day.
- Help your child learn how to explain their condition to classmates, letting them know it is not contagious.
- Make sure treatments are followed.
Living with psoriasis can interfere with a child’s self-image. Be sure to emphasize your child’s strengths and that although they have a condition called psoriasis, it does not define who he or she is as a person. If you see signs of depression or anxiety, consider having your child talk with a therapist to deal with the social issues of psoriasis.
“About Psoriasis in Children,” Date Unknown, Staff Writer, National Psoriasis Foundation
“Children and Psoriasis,” Reviewed 2013, April, Staff Writer, Psoriasis Association – UK
“Psoriasis in Children: An Insight,” 20122, May-June, Sandipan Dhar et al, Indian Journal of Dermatology
Published On: July 03, 2013