Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes thick, scaly patches on the skin.
Psoriasis happens when there’s a lot of inflammation in the skin, which leads to the rapid growth and shedding of skin cells. Thick, scaly patches called plaques develop in the areas where this is happening.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, which means the body attacks itself by mistake. Genetics plays a role too – it’s common for several people in the same family to have psoriasis.
Other triggers of the conditions include certain medications and infections like tonsillitis.
Psoriasis ranges in severity, duration, and spread across the body. For example, sometimes it fades with very little treatment within a few months. Sometimes it’s a lifelong condition that needs treatment with medicine. And some children have only a few small areas of psoriasis, whereas others can have large areas of it.
Psoriasis isn’t contagious.
About a quarter of people with psoriasis develop it before the age of 18.
Symptoms of psoriasis
The main symptom of psoriasis is inflamed patches of skin. On children with lighter skin, the patches might look red. On children with darker skin, the patches might look brown, purple or grey. Patches have silvery-white scales. These patches usually aren’t itchy.
Psoriasis can come up anywhere on the body, but it most often comes up on the scalp, knees, elbows, belly button and between the buttocks. Psoriasis also affects fingernails and toenails. If you get it on your nails, they might look pitted, discoloured or thickened.
In young children it might come up in the nappy area, where it can look like nappy rash.
Psoriasis symptoms also include joint problems, joint pain and swelling, which are often worse in the morning. But children don’t often have these symptoms.
Children with psoriasis can feel very self-conscious, embarrassed or distressed about their skin. This might affect their school and social activities.
Does your child need to see a doctor about psoriasis?
Yes. If your child has symptoms of psoriasis, see your GP.
Your GP might refer your child to a dermatologist for further assessment.
To diagnose psoriasis, your doctor will look at your child’s skin and talk to you about your child’s medical history. In some circumstances, they might need to take a skin sample, but this is rare.
Treatment for psoriasis
There’s no cure for psoriasis, but there are many treatments that can make the rash go away and reduce symptoms.
The right treatment for your child depends on their age, the area of their body that’s affected, and the severity of their symptoms.
Treatment might involve ointments and creams, including corticosteroids (cortisone), tar preparations and vitamin D creams (calcipotriol).
If your child has widespread psoriasis, a course of targeted ultraviolet-B light might help. A dermatologist can provide this treatment.
In very severe cases your doctor might prescribe medicines that target or suppress the immune system.
If the psoriasis has appeared after a recent bout of tonsillitis, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics. If the tonsillitis and psoriasis keeps coming back, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove your child’s tonsils.
It’s essential to moisturise your child’s skin to keep it soft and healthy. Use simple moisturisers like paraffin, petroleum jelly, aqueous cream and sorbolene cream. Any brand will work well as long as it doesn’t contain fragrances.
Psoriasis can affect your child’s health and wellbeing, so it’s important for children with psoriasis to have a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking. It’s also important to seek professional support if psoriasis is affecting your child’s mental and emotional health.