Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes your skin to become dry, scaly and itchy. Most adults who have psoriasis say their symptoms started early, often in childhood. It’s hard enough having psoriasis, but having it in childhood can be even more so. If you believe your child may have psoriasis or has already been diagnosed, it’s important to see a dermatologist who specializes in pediatric skin conditions. Here’s more about psoriasis in children.
What is Psoriasis?
Often confused with eczema, psoriasis is also a skin condition that causes dry, itchy skin. But unlike eczema, which is caused by hypersensitivity to cold or other factors, psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes dead skin to layer on top of healthy skin instead of being sloughed away or shed during the skin’s natural lifecycle. When this build-up of dead skin occurs, it causes thick, scaly patches which, when inflamed, become extremely painful and itchy.
Signs and Symptoms of Psoriasis
No two cases of psoriasis are alike, and oftentimes parents mistake the condition for cradle cap, eczema, rosacea or allergic reactions. Remember, psoriasis is not caused by external factors like detergents or dust (although it can be affected by them), it is an autoimmune disease that affects the skin. In nearly all cases of psoriasis, symptoms include –
- Dry patchy skin that most commonly are pink or red in color, often with silvery scales on top.
- Burning, itching or pain. While itching is the most common symptom, many report burning sensations and pain, which gets worse when the condition is not properly managed or when the patches are scratched excessively.
- Cracked Skin. Lack of moisture and exposure to air can cause psoriasis symptoms to worsen. When left untreated or scratched excessively, cracked patches can bleed or become infected.
- Ear Pain. Many children complain of ear pain or that they are having difficulty hearing, which often is misdiagnosed as swimmer’s ear or wax build-up. In fact, psoriasis can often present in the ear canals and can be quite painful.
- Problems with Nails. Psoriasis can present in the fingernails or toenails as pitting or white blotches and often is misdiagnosed in children as athlete’s foot or nail fungus.
There is no cure for psoriasis, but it is possible to manage the condition while under the watchful eye of a dermatologist. The most common treatments for psoriasis include antihistamines, which can help minimize or control itching; topical treatments that can include corticosteroids, calcipotriene and other prescribed creams and ointments; and oral medications.
Caring for a Child with Psoriasis
While there are a number of very powerful medications that can help your child control her psoriasis, there is as of now no medical cure. That can be dismal news for any parent, as well as a child who is just trying to manage their daily journey through life. There however a number of things you and your child can do to relieve symptoms; these include simple lifestyle changes and hacks that can not only control symptoms and reduce flare-ups, but benefit your child’s overall health. They include helping your child manage stress by encouraging them to relax, manage their time, and avoid stressors. Exercise can help. This isn’t a problem for child-athletes, but for kids who don’t do sports, walking the dog or riding a bike can reduce stress, increase mood and enhance the immune system. Therapy may also be an option to help reduce stress and anxiety, and help them accept and not be embarrassed by their condition.
Maintaining a healthy weight has been proven to reduce the severity of the condition, whereas being overweight may speed the progression of the disease and could accelerate an onset of psoriatic arthritis. Eating healthy – especially maintaining a heart-healthy diet that is low in sodium, fats and preservatives – is best. Teens should avoid alcohol and tobacco products and maintain that discipline into adulthood.
If you bathe baby or your adolescent or teen uses skin care products, ensure they are gentle and natural; avoid detergents, fragrances, dyes and chemicals. Epsom salt soaks are great, as are natural oils to help slough away scales and calm dry patches. Tea tree oil products – especially hair conditioners – provide natural, soothing relief to itchy scalps.
Lastly, avoid the sun when possible. Use care when selecting sun protection products, and remember to wear protective clothing.
Pediatric Skin Care in South Florida
The Children’s Skin Center has years of experience treating pediatric and adult skin conditions, to include psoriasis. If you or your child has a skin condition, or you want to enhance the skin you have, call Dr. Ana Duarte and her team of expert providers at (305) 669-6555 or request an appointment online for a location near you.