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Children's health

25th May 2022

“I was quite self-conscious about it”: Irish teen shares her experiences with paediatric psoriasis

Ann Cronin

Brought to you by Janssen Sciences Ireland UC

“I’d have to like make sure my skin was covered because I hated it. It didn’t look nice at all.”

While psoriasis in children is not overly common, it’s still a condition that can have a significant impact on the lives of those living with.

Psoriasis is a chronic, systemic inflammatory skin disorder that is often recognised by the tell-tale scaly patches of skin that are typical of this immune condition. It’s estimated to affect about 1% of children in Ireland and, while many of the symptoms are similar to those experienced by adults, some are distinctly different, for example it can be a lot more subtle, making it more difficult to diagnose.

People living with skin conditions, including psoriasis, are experiencing some of Ireland’s longest delays to access the specialist care they desperately need. Currently, there are 39,324 people waiting to access dermatology services with 30% waiting for more than 12 months.

To help provide some extra support for those waiting to access dermatology services, Janssen Sciences Ireland has launched PsO Let’s Talk Psoriasis, a new video and podcast series which features both medical professionals and people living with psoriasis and a related condition, psoriatic arthritis.

Hosted by Dr Ciara Kelly, the new four-part series has been designed to bridge this gap in support by providing access to expert guidance from leading Irish dermatologists while people experience these long waiting times to access specialist care.

The latest episode focuses on paediatric psoriasis and features Chris Mulligan, a 16 year old who has been living with psoriasis since the age of nine.

In the ‘Managing Paediatric Psoriasis’ episode, Chris shares her experience with the condition so far, from initial symptoms to the various treatments she’s undergone.

“So first, I noticed it on my scalp, and it came in big lumps, and it’d be all flaky, and very, very itchy. And if I scratched at it, it would start to bleed. It wasn’t very nice to deal with.” Chris said the condition then progressed to her knees, arms and ankles. Chris struggled with the condition for a while before she received a diagnosis.  Like many cases of paediatric psoriasis, Chris and her mom initially mistook the condition for headlice before visiting their GP.

Speaking on the same episode, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Tallaght University Hospital, Fiona Lawlor, said a GP should be the first point of contact for any parent who suspects their child may have a skin condition like psoriasis.

So usually, the first port of call is a GP. When they attend there, hopefully their GP can give them a diagnosis and tell them there and then that it is psoriasis.

If at that time, they don’t get a diagnosis, the GP would send a referral to a dermatology department.”

In Chris’ case, a GP referral to a dermatologist at Children’s Health Ireland in Crumlin resulted in a diagnosis of psoriasis.

Chris also opens up about how her psoriasis made her feel self-conscious at times, something many children with the condition may relate to.

“I’d have to like make sure my skin was covered because I hated it. It didn’t look nice at all.

“I was quite self conscious about it. Especially when it came to swimming in the summer. My mom would go shopping with me to make sure I had the right swimsuit so it would cover my skin.”

For parents, Fiona says the key thing when it comes to communication with your child is to be fully transparent about the condition and the outlook for living with it. “I feel really strongly that, number one, you’re open and honest, telling your child that they do have a chronic condition, it can come and go, but there are treatments available,” she said.

Fiona also highlighted a number of education and support resources that parents can access for reliable, trustworthy information. “The Irish Skin Foundation have a really good website. They have parent information, including leaflets and booklets. The British Association os Dermatologists also have excellent information on their website. At Tallaght University Hospital, we also provide a huge amount of information for the patient and for their parents to set them on the right track.”

While she still has some psoriasis symptoms, Chris remains positive and hopes that she will manage to get her condition under control.

“I did want it to go, I’ve wanted it to go for a long time, and it is a little bit annoying that I’m going to have it for the rest of my life. But if I follow my treatment plan, I think it’s going to get much better for myself. And that’s what I’m hoping for.”

PsO Let’s Talk Psoriasis, a new video and podcast series by Janssen, aims to support and empower people living with psoriasis. The series is the first of its kind designed to bridge the gap in support while people wait to access specialist dermatology services, by providing expert guidance from leading Irish dermatologists. Watch the four episodes HERE.

References available upon request.

Brought to you by Janssen Sciences Ireland UC