Psoriasis in children is a genetic skin disease in which your child’s immune system causes skin cells to reproduce too quickly. Instead of the normal 28 to 30 days that it takes for skin cells to shed, skin affected by psoriasis takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of shedding, these cells pile up and form reddish or silvery plaques. These plaques (or patches) can appear anywhere on the body, but they are most common on the scalp, knees, elbows and torso. The non-contagious plaques are sometimes itchy and have thick scales.
Psoriasis in children is a chronic condition that can get better and worse, seemingly at random. Some children will have just a few minor patches that respond well to treatment while others may have large areas of affected skin.
Tests & Diagnosis
To diagnose psoriasis, the doctor will examine your child’s skin, scalp and nails and ask about family history and if your child recently had an illness or started a new medication. Sometimes, a doctor may need to remove a skin sample to examine it more closely.
If your child is diagnosed with psoriasis, the condition can be treated three ways:
- Topical treatments – These psoriasis treatments usually ointments that are applied directly to the skin. They might include moisturizers, prescription corticosteroids, vitamin D creams, shampoos made with salicylic acid and more. These treatments can effectively treat many types of mild-to-moderate psoriasis.
- Light therapy – This psoriasis treatment uses in-office narrow band UVB phototherapy to treat symptoms.
- Oral or injected medications – These psoriasis treatments are usually reserved for severe or resistant psoriasis.
Your child’s doctor may also recommend some lifestyle changes to better manage psoriasis, including a healthier diet containing foods that contain antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. These changes are also important to help combat cardiovascular risk associated with the systemic inflammation that comes with psoriasis. There are local and national support groups to help your child manage the social and emotional effects of the disease.
What causes psoriasis in children?
The exact cause isn’t known, but most researchers believe there is a genetic component. The immune system is mistakenly triggered, which speeds up the growth cycle of skin cells.
What are the symptoms of psoriasis?
Red or silvery plaques that itch and have a scaly appearance are the primary psoriasis symptoms.
What kinds of tests are there for psoriasis?
Psoriasis is usually diagnosed by physical examination, but a skin sample may be taken.
Is psoriasis contagious?
This condition is never contagious.
What are the psoriasis triggers?
Some children have an onset of psoriasis after common childhood infections such as strep throat, ear infection, bronchitis or tonsillitis. Sometimes, psoriasis develops at the site of an injury or is triggered by certain medications. Also, stress often causes psoriasis to flare or triggers an initial episode.
Can my child’s psoriasis be controlled?
Yes. Once your child is correctly diagnosed by a doctor, you can work together to develop an effective treatment plan.
Are there side effects to psoriasis treatments?
Systemic medications for psoriasis may cause some side effects such as nausea, joint pain and fatigue, but these are generally only prescribed in the most severe cases.