Common Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis in Kids
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system. It is an unpredictable condition that can be relatively benign, disabling or devastating. Although multiple sclerosis occurs most commonly in adults, it is also diagnosed in children and adolescents. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, estimates suggest that 8,000 to 10,000 children (defined as up to 18 years old) in the United States have multiple sclerosis, and another 10,000 to 15,000 have experienced at least one symptom suggestive of MS. March is designated as Multiple Sclerosis Month, a good time to review signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Mitchel Williams, MD, neurologist on staff at Children’s Hospital of Michigan with a special interest in pediatric multiple sclerosis, says symptoms seen in children are similar to those seen in adults, and often can be treated with physical therapy and medications to help reduce relapses and control the symptoms. Symptoms experienced by children that are not typical in adults, include seizures and mental status changes (lethargy).
Multiple sclerosis symptoms can include:
- Bladder/Bowel Dysfunction
- Balance and coordination problems
- Vision Problems
- Dizziness and Vertigo
- Cognitive Dysfunction
- Emotional Changes
Dr. Williams says that it can be more challenging to diagnosis children than adults since symptoms can be similar to other disorders and parents and some clinicians may not expect the diagnosis in children. If your child experiences any of the symptoms mentioned it is best to contact a pediatrician or pediatric neurology specialist to evaluate the situation.
There is no cure, but many treatments can make life better for children with the disease. Multiple sclerosis treatment for people of all ages has three main goals: to treat attacks, to prevent future attacks, and to relieve symptoms.
Treatment for MS Attacks in Children
Corticosteroid medications reduce inflammation in the brain and spinal cord during attacks. The main one is methylprednisolone (Solu-medrol), which you get through an IV once a day for 3-5 days. Sometimes doctors prescribe a corticosteroid pill called prednisone for a short time after the IV medication.
Although most children can handle corticosteroids well, for some they cause side effects, including moodiness and behavior changes, increases in blood pressure and blood sugar, and upset stomach. Doctors can treat these problems if they come up.
If corticosteroids alone don’t help enough, your doctor may talk to you about other treatments, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and plasma exchange.