How do children become susceptible to psoriasis? The fact is that the disease is actually quite common in their age group. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) estimates that around 20,000 American children under 10 years old are affected with this skin condition annually.1
Although psoriasis is a condition that can appear at any age, people typically have their first outbreak between the ages of 15 and 25. Meanwhile, one-third of psoriasis patients are actually less than 20 years old when the first hallmarks of the disease appear, and 1 in 10 patients develop the condition when they’re children.
Unfortunately, the earlier psoriasis shows up on the body, the more likely it is to recur and become widespread.2
What Causes Psoriasis in Children?
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that occurs when the immune system facilitates faster reproduction of skin cells. This results in a two- to six-day turnover instead of a 21- to 28-day cycle.
Because these cells quickly multiply, they rise up from under the skin and pile up on the surface where thick, red and inflamed plaques with silvery scales can then appear.3,4
A faulty immune system is said to be responsible for the onset of psoriasis, since the disease involves a type of cell called the T cell. This cell is responsible for fighting infections and healing diseases, and they are triggered into action by mistake, resulting in other immune responses and further causing inflammation and rapid skin cell turnover.5
Genetics are also a big factor in the development of psoriasis in children. According to the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance, at least one-third of psoriasis patients have a relative, either living or dead, who has psoriasis.6
If a child has one parent with psoriasis, there is already a 15 percent chance that he or she will have the condition. This risk rises to 75 percent if both parents have psoriasis. However, if a child has psoriasis but neither parents don’t have the disease, then a sibling has a 20 percent chance of being affected with the disease.
Psoriasis is known to skip generations, but a link in the family still remains if a relative, via either or both parents, has the condition.7
Other common triggers of psoriasis in children include infection/s, skin irritation, stress, obesity and cold weather.8 On the other hand, illnesses such as colds, chickenpox, tonsillitis or strep throat could prompt the onset of a type of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis. Further scratching or rubbing can also spur skin injuries and exacerbate psoriasis symptoms.9
Check Your Child for These Typical Symptoms of Psoriasis
The most common symptoms of psoriasis in children include:10
• Raised patches of skin that are often red and covered with whitish-silvery scales, and may be mistaken for diaper rash in infants
• Dry and cracked skin that can bleed
• Itching, soreness or burning sensation in and around the affected areas of skin
• Thick, pitted fingernails or nails that develop deep ridges
The scalp, face, groin, armpit and behind the knees are the areas where psoriasis plaques are most likely to appear, so make sure to check these body parts frequently.11
A very important precaution about psoriasis symptoms: your child will experience unpredictable cycles or periods of increased and decreased activity. You or your child may also notice that there will be times wherein symptoms may appear, but within a few weeks or months, these symptoms will improve or vanish.12
Once you notice any of these signs of psoriasis, consult your physician immediately to figure out how to alleviate any irritation or pain that your child might experience. Fortunately, there are natural treatments that your child can use in order to treat psoriasis and hopefully lessen the irritation.
Most importantly, don’t forget that psoriasis can have a big impact on a child’s self-esteem, especially if he or she has large areas of skin covered with plaques or notices rashes on the genitals. This can cause embarrassment, shame or disgust and even depression or feelings of isolation.13
Combatting the negative emotional and psychological consequences of psoriasis is important for a child’s well-being. This makes the child feel that his or her experiences are validated, and that there is nothing wrong at all on the personal level. Reassure and make the child feel that he or she is not alone in this battle, as well as improve self-confidence so he or she can go on with daily tasks normally.14