Can a child have psoriasis?

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Guttate psoriasis: If your child develops this type of psoriasis, you’ll likely see small, scaly, teardrop-shaped spots scattered on the skin.

It’s possible. Children get psoriasis. This disease can begin when the child is a newborn, teenager, or any age in between.

Children develop all the types of psoriasis that adults do.

Differences between psoriasis in children and adults

One type of psoriasis is more common in children. Called guttate (gut-tate) psoriasis, it often appears when the child has an infection, especially strep throat. It’s also possible for a child to get guttate psoriasis without having an infection.

If your child has an infection, successfully treating the infection may cause the psoriasis to clear within a few months and never return. While the guttate psoriasis may clear, some children who’ve had it later develop plaque (pronounced plack) psoriasis.

When a child gets any type of psoriasis, it can also look a lot like diaper rash, cradle cap, or a yeast infection. Children are often treated for these very common conditions first. If the skin doesn’t clear after treatment, your child should see a dermatologist.

Seeing a dermatologist can help you get an accurate diagnosis for a disease that affects the skin. In very young children, however, it can be difficult for even a pediatric dermatologist (a dermatologist who specializes in treating children) to tell you right away whether your child has psoriasis or eczema. The diagnosis may be eczematous psoriasis or psoriasiform eczema.

Fortunately, many of the treatments for psoriasis and eczema are the same. In time, a dermatologist can tell you whether your child has eczema or psoriasis.

Treating a child requires special considerations

Before treating a child, a dermatologist carefully considers:

  • Whether treatment is necessary
  • The risks and benefits of potential treatments

Having a visible skin disease can be very stressful. Psoriasis on the scalp can be especially troubling for a child or teenager, especially if it causes hair loss. A child can feel embarrassed and start to withdraw from others. Constant itch and pain can make it difficult to concentrate during school and to sleep at night.

Some children, however, are not bothered by their psoriasis — especially if it is covered by clothing and causes little itch or pain. In that case, treatment may be unnecessary.

Before treating a child, a dermatologist also looks at the short- and long-term effects of treating psoriasis. When treating a child, it’s important to anticipate what treatment may be required in the future.

If treatment is needed now, a dermatologist can develop a treatment plan that minimizes side effects and maximizes the beneficial effects of treatment.

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Image
Photo used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

References
Bergstrom, KG, Kimball AB. (2011) 100 questions & answers about psoriasis. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett.

Cordoro, KM. "Management of Childhood Psoriasis." Advances in Dermatology, 2008;24:125-69.

Evans, A. "Effectively managing pediatric psoriasis: The latest from the AADs 70th Annual Meeting." Dermatology World. Last modified August 1, 2012.

Siegfried, E. “Clinical pearls in pediatric dermatology.” Dermatology Times, 2015 Jul;36(7):44-6.