MS is a chronic, disabling disease of the central nervous system. It causes injury to the sheath called myelin that covers nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.
MS is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20-50. The condition also affects children in an estimated 2%-5% of cases.
A malfunction of the body's immune system seems to be the cause of MS. The immune system attacks and damages the myelin. The exact cause of this malfunction is unknown.
Risk factors for MS include:
There are many different types of MS. When it occurs during childhood, the condition usually takes the form of relapsing and remitting. This means that the symptoms suddenly reappear every few months or years, last for a few weeks or months, then go back into remission.
The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If your child has any of these, talk to the doctor.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your child's nerve responses may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with an MRI scan.
The goals of MS treatment are to:
Work with the doctor to develop a treatment plan for your child. Options include:
Examples of medications used to treat MS in children include:
With plasma exchange, the proteins causing the damage to the myelin are removed from the blood. During the plasma exchange, fresh plasma is added to the blood.
Depending on the symptoms, the doctor may recommend that your child works with a:
Your child may also need support from teachers and staff at school.
There are no guidelines for preventing MS. There may be some steps that you can take to prevent your child from having flare-ups, for example:
Multiple Sclerosis Association of America
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada
Multiple sclerosis. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Multiple%20Sclerosis.aspx. Updated November 2005. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Multiple sclerosis. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site775/mainpageS775P0.html. Updated 2012. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Multiple sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 27. Updated August 5, 2013. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Multiple sclerosis. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/conditions/multiple_sclerosis/index.html. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Munger KL, et al. Body size and risk of MS in two cohorts of US women. Neurology. 2009;73(19):1543-1550.
Pediatric (child) MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/pediatric-ms/index.aspx. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Treatments. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/treatments/index.aspx. Accessed September 6, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.