About Pediatric MS
(Content about MS provided by the National MS Society. To learn more about MS visit nationalmssociety.org)
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease and typically diagnosed in adults, on average at age 37. However, it is also diagnosed in children and adolescence. The estimated number of children and adolescence that have been diagnoses with MS is approximately 8,000-10,000 (defined as up to 18 years old), in the US. Another 10,000-15,000 have experienced at least one symptom suggestive of MS.
In multiple sclerosis, damage to the myelin sheath (protective covering around a neuron), in the central nervous system (CNS), and to the nerve fibers themselves, interferes with the transmission of messages or nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body. This disruption of messages or nerve signals produces the primary symptoms of MS (see Diagnosis & Symptoms), which vary depending on where the damage has occurred.
Facts about Pediatric MS:
- Studies have shown that at least 2 to 5% of all people with MS have had a history of some type of symptom that has occurred before age 18.
- Diagnosis (see below) in children is more difficult than in adults because of the frequency of other childhood disorders with similar symptoms and characteristics.
- Most of the symptoms (see below) of MS seen in children are similar to those seen in adults. However, there are symptoms experienced by children that are not typical in adults which include seizures and mental status changes (lethargy).
- More and more evidence suggests that a slower disease course occurs in children with MS, however, significant disability can accumulate at an earlier age compared to individuals with adult onset MS.
- Psychosocial consequences of MS in children and adolescents may interfere with academic performance, family relations, and specific adolescent issues including self-image and relationships with peers. An evaluation by a trained professional can help determine appropriate interventions.
- Pediatricians may not be familiar with MS because they are not expecting to see it in children.
- School educators may not also be familiar with MS because it does not occur that often in children.