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.
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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.
MS is more common in females. Other factors that may increase your child's chance of 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:
MS is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, but it can be found in children.
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 the 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 the child works with a:
The 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. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Multiple sclerosis. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/health-topics/conditions/multiple-sclerosis-ms. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Multiple sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS. Updated June 21, 2017. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Multiple sclerosis. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital website. Available at: http://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/conditions/multiple_sclerosis/index.html. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Munger KL, et al. Body size and risk of MS in two cohorts of US women. Neurology. 2009;73(19):1543-1550.
Pediatric MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Who-Gets-MS/Pediatric-MS. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Treating MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Treating-MS. Accessed September 25, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2013