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Psoriasis in Children: Symptoms and Treatments

Posted on April 06, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Candace Crowley, Ph.D.

Psoriasis in children, also called pediatric psoriasis, is a chronic (long-term) disease that causes thick, red patches of skin. Psoriasis can affect children of all ages, from 2-year-olds up to teenagers. Although children can develop the same types of psoriasis that adults do, there are some differences between psoriasis in children and adults. Parents and caregivers may want to learn about the symptoms and treatments for childhood psoriasis and how they differ from adult psoriasis.

Symptoms of Psoriasis in Children

Symptoms of psoriasis in children are similar to symptoms in adults — thick, red, scaly patches of skin. These patches are known as plaques and can change in size and location on a child’s skin over time. Other symptoms of psoriasis in children include:

  • Pain
  • Silvery scales
  • Itching
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Tightening feeling on the skin
  • Hair loss

In children, plaques are most commonly found on the scalp. In many cases, the scalp is the first place where plaques appear in children. In school-aged children, psoriasis plaques are also frequently found on the ears, upper eyelids, and nails.

Children with psoriasis are more likely to have other health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, juvenile arthritis, Crohn’s disease (CD), and psychiatric disorders. Juvenile psoriatic arthritis affects up to 10 percent of children with psoriasis and causes swollen, painful, and stiff joints. Proper management of childhood psoriasis is important for a child’s long-term health and wellness.

Other skin conditions, such as eczema, are common in children and can be confused with psoriasis. A pediatric dermatologist specializing in treating skin conditions in children can help diagnose whether a child has psoriasis or eczema.

Treatments for Psoriasis in Children

Although there is currently no cure for childhood psoriasis, many effective treatments are available. Seeking treatment from a board-certified dermatologist, having a solid support network, and making lifestyle changes can help children manage psoriasis successfully.

Treatments for childhood psoriasis include:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers that cause flare-ups
  • Maintaining a proper skin care routine and regularly using moisturizers
  • Living a healthy lifestyle
  • Using medications

Some medications for childhood psoriasis are topical (applied directly to the skin), and others are taken orally or by injection. Medications for children with psoriasis include:

Special considerations are needed when treating psoriasis in children. It can be difficult for them to understand and deal with the physical and emotional impacts of psoriasis. For example, visible skin lesions can cause children to be embarrassed around peers. As one MyPsoriasisTeam member shared, “I have watched the daily struggle my daughter has gone through.” Another said, “This affects her confidence and self-esteem.” Pain and itching can make it hard for children to focus at school and sleep at night, as well. A supportive environment and care from a pediatric dermatologist can help children with psoriasis deal with this condition.

Prevalence of Psoriasis in Children

Almost 1 in 3 cases of psoriasis begin during childhood, with psoriasis affecting nearly one percent of children. According to a recent study of children with psoriasis, the most common types of psoriasis in children are:

  • Plaque psoriasis
  • Guttate psoriasis
  • Scalp psoriasis
  • Pustular psoriasis

The rate of psoriasis in children more than doubled between 1970 and 2000. Researchers believe a mix of biological and environmental factors is responsible for this increase.

Risk Factors for Developing Psoriasis in Children

Like psoriasis in adults, psoriasis in children is caused by an overactive immune system. A ramped-up immune response causes the body to make too many skin cells and leads to skin inflammation. Psoriasis in children also has a hereditary component. More than 50 percent of children with psoriasis have a family history of psoriasis.

Risk factors for psoriasis in children include:

  • Viral infections such as strep throat
  • Stress
  • Skin injury
  • Obesity
  • Second-hand cigarette smoke
  • Stopping the use of corticosteroids

How Does Psoriasis in Children Differ From Adult Psoriasis?

Psoriasis has similar characteristics in children and adults, but there are several differences. One type of psoriasis, known as guttate psoriasis, is more common in children than in adults. Guttate psoriasis is linked to infections such as strep throat. Obesity and psoriasis are also more closely connected in children than adults.

Compared to adults, psoriasis plaques in children are often smaller and thinner. Plaques are also more likely to develop on the face, backs of the knees, and insides of the armpits, elbows, and groin in children.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 90,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Do you have a child with psoriasis? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your MyPsoriasisTeam Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Candace Crowley, Ph.D. received her doctorate in immunology from the University of California, Davis, where her thesis focused on immune modulation in childhood asthma. Learn more about her here.

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