Michel Tarabocchia knows all too well how psoriasis for a parent can mean psoriatic disease for a child.
Approximately one-third of people who develop psoriatic disease are under 18 years old when the disease first appears.1 Michel Tarabocchia and her sister, Denise Caamano, were two of those children. Diagnosed at 13, Michel endured teasing and cruel comments from her classmates, making those self-conscious teenage years much worse.
“I didn’t really get to experience much of that teenage life because of psoriasis all over my face, my scalp, my body,” Michel said.
While Michel was covering up her psoriasis lesions with long clothes and layers of makeup, Denise had even greater coverage of psoriasis on her body and the additional burden of psoriatic arthritis.
What is psoriatic disease?
Psoriasis is an immune-mediated disease associated with inflammation throughout the body, often with visible raised plaques on the skin. It is not contagious. Inflammation caused by psoriasis can impact other organs and tissues in the body. The most common related condition is psoriatic arthritis, a chronic, inflammatory disease of the joints and entheses (the places where tendons and ligaments connect to bone).
While the exact genetics of psoriatic disease are still being researched, we currently understand that there is about a 28% chance that children will develop psoriasis if one of their parents has it.2 After their diagnosis, Michel and Denise learned of their father’s history of psoriatic disease in college. Michel learned the hard way that she, too, could have a child with psoriasis.
At just 3 months old, Michel’s daughter, Leah, developed rash-like lesions on her cheeks. While Michel was adamant from the beginning that it was psoriasis — thanks to her own experience — it took two years and several pediatricians to receive an official psoriasis diagnosis. It took additional time to find a treatment that would successfully clear Leah’s skin.
Through these troubling years, Michel had support in the form of a Psoriasis One to One mentor. The National Psoriasis Foundation launched the Psoriasis One to One program to bring the support and empathy of someone who has gone through it to those who need it most.
Supporting psoriasis patients
The National Psoriasis Foundation is the leading nonprofit representing individuals with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, serving the community for more than 55 years with patient support, advocacy, research, and education.
Since its launch in 2016, the Psoriasis One to One program has matched up more than 1,000 mentor-mentee pairs. Like Michel’s match with Jaime Lyn Moy, many of the pairings are two parents connecting about caring for a child with psoriatic disease.
“It’s like, put your own oxygen mask on first,” Michel said. “I needed to find a way to help myself to be able to help her, so that’s what I did.”
Now, with both Michel and Leah’s psoriasis under the control of an effective biologic medication, Michel volunteers her time with NPF to give back to the community that helped her in her time of need. She is a mentor with the Psoriasis One to One program and helps to develop resources for parents of children living with psoriatic disease through NPF’s Our Spot program for youth and parents.
“Giving back, whether it’s giving your time or giving your money, it helps you have a ripple effect,” she said. “You never know whose life you’re touching, who really needs it in the moment.”
- Menter A, Cordoro KM, Davis DMR, et al. Joint American Academy of Dermatology-National Psoriasis Foundation guidelines of care for the management and treatment of psoriasis in pediatric patients [published correction appears in J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020 Mar;82(3):574]. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2020;82(1):161-201. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2019.08.049
- Swanbeck G, Inerot A, Martinsson T, et al. Genetic counselling in psoriasis: empirical data on psoriasis among first-degree relatives of 3095 psoriatic probands. Br J Dermatol. 1997;137(6):939-942.