Can babies get psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes the production of new skin cells to speed up. This results in an accumulation of extra skin cells. These extra cells form red, scaly patches known as plaques that have sharp borders and grey to silver-white flakes, called scale. The may be anywhere from slightly to very itchy. Psoriasis affects all ages. It commonly develops between ages 15 and 30. Though it is rare, psoriasis can indeed occur in infants.

What causes baby psoriasis?

Psoriasis isn’t contagious, so can’t be passed from person to person. While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, there are several factors that may contribute to the development of psoriasis in babies, children, and adults. Psoriasis is thought to be caused by a combination of genetics, susceptibility to autoimmune disease, and environmental or infectious triggers. Family history is a strong component of psoriasis. A first- or second-degree relative who has psoriasis greatly increases a person’s likelihood of developing psoriasis. A family history of autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, or Crohn’s disease may increase a baby’s chances of developing psoriasis, which is also considered an autoimmune disorder. In older children and adults, obesity is a risk factor for psoriasis. This is not typically a factor in infancy. Stress, use of certain medications, cold weather, and skin trauma are other possible causes, more so in older children and adults. In infants and children, the onset of psoriasis is often preceded by an infection. Colds may be a common trigger in infants. Strep throat infections are a more common infectious trigger for psoriasis in older children.

How is baby psoriasis diagnosed?

Psoriasis in babies is a rare condition. It’s also very difficult to diagnose as it may appear similar to other (much more common) infant skin conditions. Family history and close observation by a specialist are necessary for diagnosis. If your baby has a rash that has persisted in spite of at-home creams and treatments, you should see your child’s doctor for help. A doctor will be able to identify possible causes of the rash. To diagnose infant psoriasis, the rash will have to be observed for quite some time. Seeing a dermatologist may be helpful.

What are signs of baby psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a non-contagious autoimmune disease affecting the skin. Most types of psoriasis result in scaly reddish-white patches of skin on various parts of the body. These patches may be itchy and painful, or even crack and bleed. In infants, the most common locations for these lesions are the face, neck, elbows, knees, diaper area, and scalp. Psoriasis in infants may resolve and never recur, unlike psoriasis later in life, which tends to come and go over time. Next, we’ll look more closely at types of psoriasis.

What does baby psoriasis look like?

What kinds of psoriasis can babies get?

There are many variations of psoriasis that people, including infants, can develop.

Napkin psoriasis

This is a type of psoriasis specific to infants. The skin lesions appear in the diaper area. This can make diagnosis difficult, as infants develop many other types of diaper rash.

Plaque psoriasis

This is the most common type of psoriasis in all ages. Plaque psoriasis looks like raised, scaly, reddish-white or silver patches, particularly on the lower back, scalp, elbows, and knees. In children, plaques tend to be smaller in individual size and softer.

Guttate psoriasis

Guttate psoriasis is more common in infants and children than adults, although it is still the second most common type of psoriasis overall. It is the most likely type of psoriasis to be triggered by a strep infection or a cold. It appears as small, dot-like patches (rather than the large plaques) all over the body.

Pustular psoriasis

Pustular psoriasis appears as red patches with a pus-filled center. These pustules most commonly occur on the hands and feet. This type is uncommon in infants.

Scalp psoriasis

With scalp psoriasis, plaques specifically appear on the scalp, causing raised red areas with whitish buildup of flaky skin cells on top.

Inverse psoriasis

With this type of psoriasis, shiny red lesions appear in skin folds such as under the arms and behind the knees. This type of psoriasis may be accompanied by psoriasis outbreaks on other parts of the body. It is uncommon in infants

Erythrodermic psoriasis

This very rare, life-threatening type of psoriasis results in a bright red rash all over the body. It is extremely itchy and painful, and may cause large portions of skin to come off.

Nail psoriasis

This type of psoriasis is also uncommon in infants. It causes pitting and ridges in the finger and toenails, and may even cause them to discolor or fall off. Nail changes may or may not be accompanied by skin lesions.

What can I do for baby psoriasis?

If it’s determined that your baby has psoriasis, there are a number of treatment options. Many of the medications used to treat teen or adult psoriasis may be too intense or have too many side effects to be used for babies. Psoriasis in infants often has only mild symptoms, and treatment may not affect the overall course of the disorder. So the best treatment may be the one with the least risk of side effects. Treatments for babies may include:
  • avoiding heat and cold if these seem to worsen the rash
  • keeping the affected areas clean and dry
  • light therapy
  • lotions and creams, such as topical corticosteroids and topical vitamin D derivatives
  • oral medications (not typically recommended for infants)
  • some exposure to natural sunlight
  • special moisturizers designed for psoriasis patients

Baby psoriasis vs. eczema

Eczema is a very common infant skin condition. Eczema is characterized by dry, red patches of skin. These patches most commonly occur behind the knees, on the arms, and on the face, although they can occur anywhere. The rashy areas are itchy, and may crack or bleed. Eczema will not have the scaly white buildup of skin cells on top of the red patches that psoriasis typically has. Eczema is also much more likely to respond to over-the-counter creams and moisturizers than psoriasis. Eczema very rarely affects the diaper area. It is possible for a baby to have both eczema and psoriasis at the same time. If your baby has a rash and you are unsure of the cause, it’s best to see your baby’s doctor. They will be able to help identify a cause and make a treatment plan to help your baby’s skin.

The takeaway

Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that can affect babies, children, and adults. Psoriasis in babies is very uncommon. Diagnosis by a pediatric dermatologist may be needed. If your baby is diagnosed with a type of psoriasis, there are treatment options available.