Multiple Sclerosis -- Child

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. MS is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20-50. The condition also affects children in an estimated 2%-5% of cases.

  • Causes

    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.

  • Definition

    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.

    MS is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20-50. The condition also affects children in an estimated 2%-5% of cases.

    Nerve Fiber (Neuron)
    Myelin Sheath Damage
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    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:

    • Lumbar puncture
      , also known as a spinal tap
    • Blood tests
    • Urine tests

    Your child's nerve responses may be tested. This can be done with:

    • Sensory evoked potentials test
    • Visual evoked potential test


    Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with an
    MRI scan
    .

  • Prevention

    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:

    • Give your child medications as prescribed.
    • Have your child avoid hot weather and hot baths and showers.
    • Be sure that your child gets adequate rest.
    • Encourage your child to exercise regularly.
    • Have your child learn stress reduction techniques.

    • Try to have your child avoid infection. You can do this by:


      • Teaching good
        hand washing techniques
      • Staying away from people who are sick
      • Cooking food thoroughly

  • Risk Factors

    Risk factors for MS include:

    • Sex: female
    • Being exposed to certain viruses such as herpes virus-6 and Epstein-Barr virus
    • Having family members who have MS
    • Being of Northern European descent
    • Growing up in a colder climate, as opposed to a tropical climate
    • Having certain immune system genes
    • Having inflammation of the optic nerve

    • Having
      low vitamin D levels

    • Being
      obese
      as an adolescent

  • Symptoms

    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:

    • Numbness or tingling in the face or limbs
    • Impaired vision in one or both eyes, including blurred vision, double vision, and loss of vision
    • Eye pain
    • Fatigue
    • Lightheadedness
    • Muscle stiffness, spasms, weakness
    • Poor coordination
    • Trouble walking or maintaining balance
    • Weakness in one or more limbs
    • Bladder problems, including urgency, hesitancy, incomplete emptying, and incontinence

    • Bowel problems, including
      constipation
    • Slurred speech
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Forgetfulness, memory loss, confusion, and difficulty concentrating or solving problems
    • Seizures

    Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:

    • Heat, including hot weather, hot baths or showers, and fever
    • Overexertion
    • Infection

    These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If your child has any of these, talk to the doctor.

  • Treatment

    The goals of MS treatment are to:

    • Relieve symptoms
    • Prevent relapses
    • Delay disability
    • Slow disease progression

    Work with the doctor to develop a treatment plan for your child. Options include: