10 Things to Know About Multiple Sclerosis in Children

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Although multiple sclerosis (MS) is more likely to be diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 40, children can also develop the autoimmune disease.

MORE: Nine ways MS affects you from your head to toes

According to WebMD, between 8,000 and 10,000 children under the age of 18 are diagnosed with MS each year, and many more could be living with the condition but have yet to be diagnosed.

Connect with other patients and share tips on how to manage MS in our online forums!

Here are some more facts to know about multiple sclerosis in children:

  1. Often MS is diagnosed in children following the nerve disorder, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM).
  2. Although MS often progresses slowly in children and teenagers, those who have an early onset of the disease may have physical disabilities earlier in life.
  3. Childhood MS often has more of an emotional effect on children, affecting school and social life as well as self-image.
  4. Symptoms of childhood MS are similar to adult MS, presenting problems with vision, balance, walking, bladder or bowel control, tingling or numbness, and tremors among others.
  5. Children with MS are also more prone to total lack of energy and seizures, which rarely affect adults with the condition.
  6. There is no cure for child-onset MS but there are treatments available to make life more comfortable and help relieve some of the symptoms of the disease.
  7. Corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation during flares, however, many may suffer from side effects.
  8. Plasma exchange and intravenous immunoglobulin can be used for children who cannot tolerate corticosteroids.
  9. Although there aren’t any medications that have been approved by the FDA for MS patients under the age of 18 to use, children are usually prescribed the same medications as adults but with a reduced dosage.
  10.  Treatment will often also include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling.

MORE: Why myelin repair is a key part of multiple sclerosis research.

Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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14 comments

    • Annette Abbott says:

      I am so sorry for your sons diagnosis of MS. Can you please tell me what his symptoms were? I was diagnosed also at age 16. But only because i was in a car accident and they did a MRI. I had a flare up with optic neuritis after i gave birth to my second son at the age of 23. But besides that i have been fine. Unfortunate i got divorced to my first husband and have remarried 17 years ago. About 1 year after we got married i had my third son. About 5 years after that we found out my husband father of my third son also has MS. My son just turned 16 a couple days ago and he has said some things that has be very concerned. He’s very active and plays on the HS Baseball team, But I’m not sure when or if i should be concerned with some things that he has been saying to me. Is your son on any Medications for MS? I hope he is doing good.

      • misty brooke says:

        Hi i have a 5 1/2 montg old son who was born at 34 weeks premature. he was really healthy no problems was only in nicu for 3 days , but i was wondering if there would be any way to test or tell if he has MS at this age. His eye sight is off a little trying to focus or takes a moment to find you or what hes looking at. when he was a month or two younger he had teimmor like shakes sometimes when he slept.

    • Tamara says:

      Hello, it is difficult I know but it does get easier to accept and continue life with MS. My daughter was diagnosed when she was almost 16 and that was 3.5 years ago. There is so much you can do to help, both physically and emotionally and new meds are being approved… Gylenia is the first one approved to be used with children and teenage MS. Let me know if I can help with any info about anything… anytime.

      • Trina says:

        Hi
        I’m newly diagnosed with MS. My son is also delaying signs of MS. He had a few weeks when he had trouble walking. Sleeping a lot weakness in his face. Constantly complaining of neck pain I’m scared the doctor are very dismissing how do I get him help

      • Daniel Saenz says:

        Hello my 12 year old was dx last week and my wife and i are at a panic. No one has been able to tell us it will be alright. We are in a constant state of fear of our son being disabled. Has these new meds really helped?? Are the ralapses usually the same as the inicial symptoms ?? We have so many wuestion with no answers and the only info i find online scares us half to death pleas help

        • ari says:

          hi! i was recently diagnosed (i’m 15) and although it’s super scary, things do get better. there are off days and there are great days. my relapses are the same as my initial symptoms, but i’ve only had 2 relapses so far. they could be different but don’t be scared. i’m on a trial medication ocrevus which is an infusion and i’m hopeful it will work. i hope more people could help because as i said i was just recently diagnosed in april. and even though the negative is easiest to think of, the positive can greatly outweigh the bad. that’s how i’ve gotten through these past few months.

  1. Jemm Martinez says:

    I was Diagnosed at 6 yrs old (now 16)and my social life and ability to speak to others openly about my condition scares me ,I don’t know what to say or do when I can’t participate in certain activities and others do ,does anyone know how to cope with that ?

    • Mary says:

      Hello. My heart went out to what you wrote because I can relate. Firstly I’m a female and 50 years old and do have MS for over 20 years. I would every 2 to 3 years would have an attack but a few weeks of being sick, always got better. Sadly last several months my MS attack has not gone away. I have changed my whole life for the better and I do not take medications at all. Basically like you, every time I was sick with MS I found it easier to hide from the world. I am limited especially now being sick but really it is the way it is. What I’m trying to say is, don’t be the old me for so many years I hid my disease, I see now that was wrong. By being honest and open about it you can be helping someone with the same problem or they know of someone similar to you. Multiple sclerosis is a horrible disease but sadly it can happen to anyone. Honestly there is hope, I do promise there is a very good future for you and everyone who has MS, you just have to find it

  2. Mary Judkins says:

    Reading others experiences regarding an early diagnosis I now realize that I might have been diagnosed with MS in kindergarten, as then as well as now, I was unable to write a cursive Palmer Method capitol g. Growing up my parents always told others that I had a “delicate constitution” so was not able to do the physical things other children would be doing. In High School I was excused from gym class and given the option to sit on the sidelines and keep score. No one suspected MS, just clumsiness and fatigue on my part. I guess I showed them up when a year after the birth of my fourth child I was unable to swing my legs to the floor from bed. Then I was finally honored with a real reason for my physical failures. In retrospect, science had not yet advanced to the point where an early diagnosis would have aided me 70 years ago.

  3. David says:

    My daughter is 7 years old and had a severe case of optical neuritis where it caused complete blindness for 2-3 days nearly 2 weeks ago. She just had her second flair up today. And they are saying M.S. as well.

    • Lovelle2020 says:

      My son is 13 he also was diagnosed with optical neuritis. Until today the doctors had said MS was likely not the case. He had lost vision in one eye for a few days and was given steroid treatments. They had said he may not have another flair up again anytime soon but not sure. They recommended starting treatments asap. Not sure if I should wait.

  4. Rebecca Russell says:

    When was in my early teens my family called me clumsy …. when I was at the bus stop waiting my legs would go numb and hurt so bad! I would get like these spots on my legs. I would ask my mother about the pains in my legs and she would say that was growing pains ! Anyone else start like this? Because I think that was when mine started…

  5. Sarah Nayeem says:

    Hello i am a 14 year old girl and i do not know if i have MS or not. I have most of the symptoms mentioned time and again. Initially, one of my eye starts showing a black and white illusion and i can’t see with the eye, i feel tremendously sleepy and sleep through it. Then my hands start becoming numb and have a weird muscle motion, the last stage is later when my tongue also becomes very numb and has an unusual motion. during this entire time, i feel extremely tired and sleepy, so once i sleep through it i wake up with head pain, and the next day i’m good as new. This happens not very frequently maybe once in three months, till now i’ve only gotten this twice. Pls could you advise me, i am very confused if i have it or not. If i should get it checked? how may i have it at such a young age?

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