Psoriasis – Advice for Parents Whose Children Develop Psoriasis
Psoriasis is a cruel disease. Whilst it is generally not bad enough to prove a threat to life it is always there and usually hidden behind clothes. For children the disfigurement and constant itching bring with it a strong lack of confidence and social isolation. This is a long lasting and chronic disease which can return at any time. Typically it will develop between the ages of 11 and 45 years. Approximately 2% of people suffer from it and it is more commonly associated with people who have dry skin. There is no definitive cure and there have been many suggested causes.
So what is the best way to approach this disease?
The first step has to be explaining to your child what is wrong and what will happen over the years ahead. They have to know that it is not their fault and that, although, there is no definitive cure it can be alleviated and the problems eased. We are looking at regular monitoring visits to the Doctor as the best treatment is sought.
What exactly is psoriasis?
Essentially it is a skin condition and typically you get red, crusty patches of skin which also have silvery scales. These are usually confined to specific parts of the body such the elbows or scalp. There are strong suggestions that psoriasis is linked to genetics as well as being aggravated by environmental and stress issues.
What are the different types of psoriasis?
Plaque psoriasis. This is the most common type and accounts for around 80% of all cases. Typically seen as crusty scales with occasional bleeding.
Inverse psoriasis. This is associated with folds in the skin and typically impacts armpits and groins. Friction, sweating and hot weather all contribute to produce large, smooth, red areas.
Psoriasis which attacks specific areas. Here we have scalp psoriasis and nail psoriasis. Both these tend to be less extreme than other types but they do need to be recognised in their own right.
Guttate psoriasis. This tends to be associated with streptococcal throat infections and is seen as small drop shaped sores which can appear on the upper body and scalp.
Pustular psoriasis. Fortunately this is a rare type of the disease and here we see pus filled blisters or pustules. Again the symptoms tend to be associated with specific areas of the body.
Erythrodermic psoriasis. This nasty version will affect most if not all of the body and causes intense itching and irritation. It is so extensive that you also get associated problems with loss of body fluids, dehydration and similar problems.
How is psoriasis diagnosed?
With so many different symptoms how can you diagnose this disease? Doctors who have dealt with this over the years can usually make a diagnosis just by looking at the skin. However he might ask for some skin tests to rule out alternative and often more rare diseases.
How can we treat psoriasis?
There are four main approaches
Topical. Here ointments and creams will be applied to the skin.
The most common treatment will be the application of moisturizers, oils and jellies. These help to sooth the itching. Coal tar or corticosteroids are common solutions.
Phototherapy. The skin is exposed to different types of light. Sunlight is the simplest solution here but there are also times when ultraviolet light can be used.
Oral or injected medicines. These medicines will target specific parts of the immune system or some will try to reduce the rate of skin growth which will slow down the development of the rashes.
Alternative therapies. This approach tries to rebalance life style problems, reduce stress and exposure to toxic agents.
This is a common and lifelong disease. Generally it is possible to alleviate the problem and many people do lead a healthy and long life. Because there is no one solution the best route forward is to talk to other sufferers, see that your child is not unique and once you have become familiar with the terminology and cyclicity then this is a manageable disease.
This picture shows psoriasis across large areas of the back
and this picture shows how it can show on hands