Many babies have sensitive skin and rashes that come and go. If you have a family history of psoriasis, you may start to wonder, “Can babies have psoriasis too?”
Though psoriasis is most common in teenagers and adults, one third of the people with the condition start showing symptoms during childhood. Moreover, psoriasis can affect children of all ages, including newborns and babies up to 2 years of age. “I’ve had psoriasis since I was an infant but never had it as bad as now,” shared a MyPsoriasisTeam member.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and the accelerated production of skin cells. Skin builds up more quickly than it can shed, causing patches of thickened, scaly skin that can crack, bleed, and itch.
Following are four facts to know about psoriasis in babies.
Psoriasis affects approximately 1 percent of children. According to a 2016 study of children with psoriasis, the most common types of psoriasis in babies and children are plaque psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, and — more rarely — pustular or inverse psoriasis. Babies with a family history of psoriasis are more likely to have the disease. Psoriasis in babies may resolve during childhood or may continue on later in life.
In psoriasis, an overactive immune system response causes inflammation and a buildup of skin cells. These extra skin cells create plaques that are thick, discolored (generally red or purple, depending on skin color), itchy, and sometimes painful. The lesions in children are smaller and the formed scales are usually thinner. Psoriasis plaques are usually symmetrical. In children, symptoms frequently appear on the face. They also can cover large areas of the body.
Psoriasis plaques in babies are commonly seen in the diaper area. These plaques are also known as psoriatic diaper rash. Diaper-area plaques are usually flat, clearly separated, and not scaly.
Scalp psoriasis is also common in babies. Thick, scaly plaques on the scalp can be confused with cradle cap.
Psoriasis plaques can change in size and location on a baby’s skin as they grow. Other symptoms of psoriasis in babies include:
Although symptoms of psoriasis in babies are similar to those in older children and adults, they are more difficult to identify. Babies generally are unable to communicate clearly how they feel, which makes it difficult to know if they have painful or itchy skin.
Only a qualified health care provider can diagnose psoriasis. Psoriasis in infants can look like other skin conditions such as diaper rash, cradle cap, or a yeast infection. A pediatrician will often first treat a baby for these other conditions. If skin lesions don’t clear after the initial treatment, a pediatric dermatologist can help diagnose and treat psoriasis.
Babies may also have a mix of eczema spots and psoriasis plaques, which can make diagnosis difficult. Skin biopsies can help diagnose psoriasis in older children and adults. However, biopsies are not usually performed on babies. Fortunately, many eczema treatments are similar to psoriasis treatments, so differentiating between the two may not be necessary until the child is older.
There is currently no cure for psoriasis in babies. Members of MyPsoriasisTeam have shared how difficult it is to see their little ones experience symptoms: “It’s one thing to have it yourself, but to watch your child go through pain is so hard.”
Fortunately, several effective treatments may help relieve psoriasis symptoms.
Treatments for psoriasis in babies and young children include:
Fewer psoriasis medications can be used in children who are younger than 2 than in older children. Topical medications (applied directly to the skin) are generally safest in babies. Other medications, including systemic medications taken orally or injected into the body, are rarely used in babies. These medications can have severe side effects and are generally only used if safer medicines don’t work well.
Medications for children with psoriasis include topical medications (that are considered first-line treatments), such as:
Coal tar is a common topical psoriasis treatment, but experts do not recommend it for use in infants unless your doctor advises it.
More rarely, a doctor may prescribe systemic treatments with retinoids or immunosuppressant drugs, or biologic agents that target inflammation.
Special considerations are needed when treating psoriasis in babies. Many treatments have not been tested in very young children. Your child’s pediatrician or dermatologist can help you understand the benefits and risks of the available options. As one MyPsoriasisTeam member said, “I have a son who has been plagued with psoriasis since birth and am always looking for newer and better treatments.”
Another member shared, “My son has suffered from psoriasis since he was 5 weeks old, and after several medications, he’s on Humira. He’s 5 years old now and doing great. I just have to figure out what antibiotics he can have, as he flared up severely when sick.”
Care from a pediatric dermatologist can help parents develop a plan for managing their baby’s psoriasis.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people of all ages with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 125,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.
Do you have a baby with psoriasis? Which creams, ointments, or other topical treatments are most helpful? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.