AAD-NPF Pediatric psoriasis guideline advises on physical and mental care



Psoriasis management in children involves attention not only to treatment of the physical condition but also psychosocial wellness and quality of life, according to a new clinical guideline on the management of pediatric psoriasis from the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Dr. Alan Menter, chairman of dermatology, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas.

Dr. Alan Menter

Psoriasis affects approximately 1% of children, either alone or associated with comorbid conditions such as psoriatic arthritis (PsA), wrote Alan Menter, MD, of Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, and coauthors of the guideline.

In the guideline, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the multidisciplinary work group identified screening tools to measure disease severity, strategies for management of comorbidities, and the safety and effectiveness of topical, systemic, and phototherapy treatments.

To assess disease severity, the work group recommended not only the use of body surface area (BSA), similar to measurement of severity in adults, but also the use of the Children’s Dermatology Life Quality Index, a 10-question quality of life survey, as BSA alone does not account for the potential negative impact of the disease on quality of life in terms of physical, emotional, social, and psychological function.

“For example, a child with psoriasis limited to the face or the entire scalp does not have severe disease based on BSA definitions, but if this involvement causes shame, social withdrawal, or bullying, it satisfies criteria for severe disease based on impact beyond the skin,” they said.

The work group stated that a variety of conditions may trigger or exacerbate psoriasis in children, including infections, cutaneous trauma, or physiological, emotional, and environmental stressors.

The majority of children with PsA develop joint inflammation before skin disease, the work group wrote. In addition, children with psoriasis are at increased risk for rheumatoid arthritis, so clinicians may need to distinguish between a combination of psoriasis and musculoskeletal issues and cases of either psoriatic or rheumatoid arthritis in young patients.

The cardiovascular risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome are greater in children with psoriasis, compared with children without psoriasis, the work group noted. In addition, pediatric psoriasis patients have a higher prevalence of obesity than children without psoriasis, and they recommended that children with psoriasis be monitored for the development of obesity, and that obese children with psoriasis should be referred for weight management.

The work group noted that data are insufficient in children to support the link between psoriasis and cardiovascular disease that has been documented in adults with psoriasis. However, “patients with pediatric psoriasis should have American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)–recommended age-related cardiovascular screening regardless of the presence of signs or symptoms,” they said.

The guideline also recommends screening for dyslipidemia and hypertension according to AAP guidelines and educating pediatric psoriasis patients about the risk of diabetes and regularly screening for diabetes and insulin resistance in those who are obese. Overweight children with psoriasis may be screened at the provider’s discretion, they wrote. Patients with signs of inflammatory bowel disease, which also is associated with psoriasis in adults, should be considered for referral to a gastroenterologist, they noted.

Children with psoriasis should be screened regularly for mental health conditions regardless of age, and they should be asked about substance abuse, according to the guideline, and those with concerns should be referred for additional assessment and management.

The guideline divides treatment of psoriasis in children into three categories: topical, phototherapy and photochemotherapy, and systemic treatments (nonbiologic or biologic).

For topicals, the guideline recommendations include corticosteroids as an off-label therapy, as well as ultra-high-potency topical corticosteroids as monotherapy. Overall, “selection of a therapeutic routine (potency, delivery vehicle, frequency of application) should take into account sites of involvement, type and thickness of psoriasis, age of the patient, total BSA of application, anticipated occlusion, and disease acuity, among other patient-, disease-, and drug-related factors,” the authors wrote. Other topical options included in the recommendations: calcineurin inhibitors, topical vitamin D analogues, tazarotene (off label), anthralin, and coal tar.

Phototherapy has a history of use in psoriasis treatment and remains part of the current recommendations, although data in children are limited, and data on the use of phototherapy for pustular psoriasis in children are insufficient to make specific treatment and dosing recommendations, the work group noted. The researchers also noted that in-office phototherapy may not be feasible for many patients, but that in-home ultraviolet light equipment or natural sunlight in moderation could be recommended as an alternative.

The use of systemic, nonbiologic treatments for pediatric psoriasis should be “based on baseline severity of disease, subtype of psoriasis, speed of disease progression, lack of response to more conservative therapies such as topical agents and phototherapy (when appropriate), impaired physical or psychological functioning or [quality of life] due to disease extent, and the presence of comorbidities such as PsA,” the workgroup said.

Options for systemic treatment include methotrexate, cyclosporine (notably for pustular as well as plaque and erythrodermic psoriasis), and systemic retinoids. In addition, fumaric acid esters may be an option for children with moderate to severe psoriasis, with recommended clinical and laboratory monitoring.

The increasing safety and efficacy data on biologics in pediatric psoriasis patients support their consideration among first-line systemic treatments, the work group suggested. “Etanercept and ustekinumab are now [Food and Drug Administration] approved for patients with psoriasis 4 years and older and 12 years and older, respectively,” they said, and infliximab and adalimumab have been used off label in children.

The work group concluded that research and knowledge gaps about pediatric psoriasis persist and include mechanism of disease onset, development of comorbidities, and identification of ideal dosing for various treatments.

Finally, the work group emphasized the importance of collaboration between dermatologists and primary care providers for managing psoriasis in children, as well as the importance of patient education.

“Dermatologists should be mindful of the unique aspects of the emotional development of children and the social dynamics of having a visible difference,” they wrote. “Shared decision making with the patient (if age appropriate) and the caregivers is a useful approach, particularly as related to the use of off-label medications to treat severe disease,” they said.

“This is the first time that pediatric psoriasis has been discussed as an independent topic within the guideline,” said one of the guideline authors, Dawn M.R. Davis, MD, of the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., in an interview. “Children have unique physiology and psychosocial aspects to their care relative to adults. In addition, psoriasis has some clinical manifestations that are oftentimes distinctly seen in children,” she commented. “Creation of a guideline specific to children allows us to summarize the similarities and differences of disease presentation and management. It also allows an opportunity to clarify what research data (especially therapeutics) have been studied in children and their uses, safety profiles, and dosing,” she noted.

Psoriasis can be a psychosocially debilitating disease, she emphasized. “In children, for example, isolated or prominent facial involvement is common, which can be embarrassing and impact relationships.”

The take-home message for clinicians, Dr. Davis said, is to keep in mind the multisystemic nature of psoriasis. “It is not limited to the skin,” she said. “Treating a patient with psoriasis necessitates practicing whole-person care” and considering the multiple comorbidities that impact quality of life and overall health in children, as well as adults with psoriasis, she commented. “Dermatologists can empower patients and their caregivers by educating them on the multifocal, complex nature of the disease.” She added, “We have much to learn regarding psoriasis in the pediatric population. More research into therapeutics, topical and systemic, is necessary to optimize patient care.”

The guideline was based on studies published in the PubMed and MEDLINE databases from January 2011 through December 31, 2017.

Dr. Menter and Craig A. Elmets, MD, professor of dermatology, at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, were cochairs of the work group. The pediatric guideline is the latest in a multipart series of AAD-NPF guidelines on psoriasis being published this year in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Many of the guideline authors, including lead author Dr. Menter, disclosed relationships with multiple companies; however, a minimum 51% of workgroup members had no relevant conflicts of interest in accordance with AAD policy. There was no funding source. Dr. Davis disclosed serving as an investigator for Regeneron, with no compensation.

SOURCE: Menter et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2019.08.049.

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