The disease speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, causing them to build up too quickly on the skin's surface. The resulting extra skin cells can create thick, silver or white scales and patches that are dry, red, itchy, and sometimes painful.
Can babies get psoriasis?
Plaque psoriasis may appear on the elbows, scalp and lower back.
While infants and very young children can develop psoriasis, it can only be diagnosed after close observation.
If an infant does have psoriasis, it tends to develop in the diaper area. This makes it particularly easy to confuse with more common rashes and it is far more likely that the baby has developed one of these that will go away with time and proper treatment.
Types of psoriasis
There are several types of psoriasis that people can develop, including infants:
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form in children, adults, and babies. Plaque psoriasis causes areas of raised, red patches covered with a silvery-white buildup of dead skin cells.
The patches occur mostly on the elbows, scalp, lower back, and knees. The often itchy and painful patches can crack and bleed.
Guttate psoriasis appears as small, dot-like lesions on the skin's surface and is the second most common type of psoriasis in babies, children, and adults. Guttate psoriasis often starts in children and young adults and can be triggered by strep infections.
Pustular psoriasis appears as red skin surrounding white pustules. The pus consists of white blood cells.
Like any psoriasis, it is not an infection and is not contagious. Pustular psoriasis mostly occurs on hands and feet, but it can occur on any part of the body.
Nail psoriasis affects fingernails and toenails, causing pitting, abnormal nail growth, and color changes.
Psoriasis that affects the nails may cause them to become loose and separate from the nail bed. Severe cases may cause the nail to crumble.
Scalp psoriasis, as the name suggests, forms on the scalp and appears as red, itchy areas with silver or white scales that often extend beyond the hairline.
A person with scalp psoriasis will likely notice flakes of dead skin in the hair and on their shoulders after scratching the scalp.
In infants this should not be confused with seborrheic dermatitis (cradle cap), which appears as greasy, yellowish scales, or a crust on the scalp.
Inverse psoriasis may appear to be shiny and smooth will often appear alongside another form of psoriasis.
Inverse psoriasis appears as very red lesions around areas of body folds, such as in the groin, under the arms, and behind the knees. Often its appearance is smooth and shiny.
A person with inverse psoriasis often has another form of psoriasis happening at the same time elsewhere on the body.
Erythrodermic psoriasis is a severe, life-threatening form of psoriasis marked by widespread, fiery redness over much of the body. Erythrodermic psoriasis can cause severe itching, pain, and cause the skin to come off in large sections.
It is very rare, most frequently occurring in people who have unstable plaque psoriasis.
Infant psoriasis has the same cause as psoriasis in other age groups, but is often triggered by an upper respiratory infection, or strep throat.
As with other autoimmune diseases, researchers believe that certain sets of genes and abnormalities in those genes may cause psoriasis.
Doctors and researchers have no way of predicting who will develop psoriasis. The disease affects people of all ethnicities. However, a baby is more likely to develop psoriasis if there is a family history of it.
Psoriasis in infants can be extremely hard to diagnose because of the symptoms similarity to other, much more common infant skin conditions.
The most common symptom is a red rash that may appear to have scaly, white patches. Other symptoms may include:
- swollen and stiff joints
- small scaling spots, generally in clusters
- cracked, dry skin that may bleed
- thickened, pitted, or ridged nails
- burning, itching, or soreness
Other skin conditions that affect babies
As said, infant psoriasis is a very rare condition. If an infant has a rash, it is likely to be a more common skin rash such as eczema.
Other rashes that babies are prone to include the following:
- Pink pimples: These require no treatment, just time to go away.
- Erythema toxicum: This is another common rash found on babies that appears as slightly raised red blotches with ill-defined borders. There is often a small white or yellow dot in the center.
- Dry, peeling skin: Almost all normal babies have this and the underlying skin is soft and moist.
- Little white bumps on the nose and face: These are the result of oil blocking the glands in these places. They tend to go away as a baby's oil glands open up in a few days or weeks.
- Salmon patches: These are a group of small nests of blood vessels. The redness tends to go away after a few weeks or months, although sometimes they never fully disappear.
How to tell infant psoriasis from other conditions
The only true way to determine if an infant has psoriasis or another skin condition is through careful observation. Unlike other rashes, psoriasis eventually scales over, with patches of white or silver over the red.
Psoriasis in infants may be concentrated on the skin around the knees, face, scalp, elbows, and neck while other rashes may occur anywhere.
Eczema affects up to 20 percent of children. It involves dry, itchy skin, which can sometimes crack and bleed. It usually appears before the age of 2 years and often disappears by the teenage years.
Light therapy may be offered as a treatment for infant psoriasis.
If a rash appears on a baby's skin and remains for several days despite the use of over-the-counter creams and treatments, caregivers should consult a doctor to check the rash.
For a doctor to diagnose psoriasis, they will need to observe the rash for some time.
Once diagnosed, however, psoriasis has many treatment options, which may include the following:
- creams and lotions applied to the skin
- keeping the areas clean and dry
- moisturizers designed for psoriatic skin
- light therapy
- avoiding cold and heat
- oral medication if prescribed
Psoriasis is an unpredictable and lifelong condition. It is most often associated with periods when symptoms become more severe and periods when they improve. Some people see a complete improvement while others always have some symptoms present.
Psoriasis can typically be managed with proper medical attention.