Children with multiple sclerosis (MS) perform as well at school as healthy peers, but are more challenged in their mental health and make greater use of healthcare services, according to a recent study.
Psychiatric problems in these young patients are also more frequent than in children with chronic disorders that don’t affect the brain, its researchers reported.
The study, “School performance, psychiatric comorbidity, and healthcare utilization in pediatric multiple sclerosis: A nationwide population-based observational study,” was published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.
MS is associated with some comorbidities, or disorders occurring simultaneously in the same person. With pediatric MS, these include problems of attention, processing speed, visual-motor skills, and language. Psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as excessive fatigue are also common.
Researchers in Denmark sought to understand how these factors might affect school performance and hospitalizations compared to both healthy children from the general population, and those with non-brain-related chronic disorders such as diabetes.
Using Denmark’s nationwide health records, they identified 92 cases of pediatric MS (under 18 years old) between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2015. The median age at MS onset was 16.1 years.
The team compared medical outcomes to two control groups: 920 healthy children — matched to MS children by sex and birthdate — and 9,108 children with inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 diabetes.
For academic performance, they analyzed records of 811,464 healthy children and 4,545 children with non-brain-related chronic disease.
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