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What to know about MS in children
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society also report that 10,000–15,000 young people in this age bracket have experienced at least one MS symptom. They cite research indicating that about 2–5% of people with MS in the U.S. experienced a symptom before the age of 18.
Babies, children, and teenagerssymptoms worsen significantly — one study suggests. Another study reports that children with MS take more time to reach motor disability milestones than adults with MS. However, the same study notes, children with MS still reach the milestones at a younger age than people who receive a diagnosis in adulthood. According to one study, lesions on the brain that result from MS were more inflamed in children with the disease, compared with adults. Children and juveniles with MS tend to experience difficulties with functions such as memory, concentration, and language within about 2 years of their diagnosis. The same research indicates that fatigue and depression may also arise during this time frame.
Learning about these characteristics can help children, parents, and caregivers better understand the disease and its progression.
Some potential risk factors include:
A person may experience vision changes as an early symptom of MS.
In addition, young children are more likely to experience confusion and coordination problems.
Treatments for MS in adults and children do not vary greatly, and a doctor may prescribe several of the same medications.
One of the first treatments that healthcare providers typically try involves using Interferon Beta 1-alpha or Glatiramer Acetate. These are self-injected medications that help with limiting or eliminating symptoms associated with MS.
When first-line therapies do not work or are not sufficiently effective, a doctor may recommend additional treatments.
The FDA first approved this drug for use in adults with the condition in 2010. It helped increase the amount of time between relapses and reduced the activity of the disease.
Researchers are looking into additional oral medications for children and adolescents. For example, some are investigating MS-related uses of rituximab, a medication that can help treat autoimmune disorders in children.
Children and teenagers who have MS may also benefit from therapy that addresses mental health. MS is a life-long condition and symptoms tend to get worse. This can be a source of anxiety and may lead to depression.
It is important for parents and caregivers to encourage children and teens to speak about any fears and concerns and to help provide supportive therapy, when necessary.
A pediatrician may assess a child to rule out other conditions.
To meet the criteria for MS, a child must have experienced at least two discrete demyelinating events. These events indicate that there has been damage in separate areas of the central nervous system at different times.
In addition, a pediatrician needs to rule out other conditions that could be causing the symptoms. They may order tests to help with this part of the diagnosis.
MS symptoms are the same in children and adults. While there is no cure for MS, treatments focus on reducing or eliminating the symptoms and limiting the number of relapses that a child or adult experiences.
Supporting the mental health of children and teens with MS is crucial. Counseling, for example, can help.
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