Pediatric multiple sclerosis is an immune disorder that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. The body attacks a fatty substance called myelin and the nerve fibers that it protects. Pediatric multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating condition, which is any condition that damages myelin.
This damage causes scar tissue (sclerosis) to develop. When myelin and nerves are damaged, the signals that travel between the brain and spinal cord are interrupted or distorted. Demyelination affects the function of many different parts of the body, such as the use and movement of the arms and legs. Changes caused by demyelination result in a wide variety of symptoms that can be mild, moderate or severe and that may get worse over time.
Between 3 and 5 percent of all people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have pediatric multiple sclerosis. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50.
Children diagnosed with multiple sclerosis experience symptoms similar to adults with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, one of four types of MS. This kind of MS is marked by attacks or relapses with new or worsening neurologic symptoms. There are also times of remission when some or all symptoms disappear.
Symptoms of pediatric multiple sclerosis include:
The progression of multiple sclerosis in children does differ from the course the condition takes in adults. In pediatric multiple sclerosis:
Children and teens with multiple sclerosis may also encounter psychosocial issues that affect their performance at school, their relationships with friends and their self-esteem.
Early symptoms of pediatric multiple sclerosis are similar to other conditions, such as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), optic neuritis (inflammation in the bundle of nerves that sends signals from the eye to the brain), transverse myelitis (inflammation in the spinal cord) and recurrent ADEM (acute disseminated encephalomyelitis that returns). This makes it difficult to diagnose pediatric multiple sclerosis. If your child shows signs of the condition, a neurologist will perform specific tests to make an accurate diagnosis.
Multiple sclerosis can affect many different body functions and quality of life. A multidisciplinary team that includes neurologists, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists and social workers will work with you and your child to manage life with pediatric multiple sclerosis.
A diagnosis of pediatric multiple sclerosis requires confirmation of demyelination in two different areas of the central nervous system. Doctors at Riley at IU Health perform the following exams and tests to diagnose pediatric multiple sclerosis:
Treatment for pediatric multiple sclerosis focuses on reducing symptoms, managing relapses and rehabilitation strategies to keep patients mobile and active. Treatments include:
Visit the links below to find support groups and more resources for pediatric multiple sclerosis.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society provides information on pediatric multiple sclerosis, including support groups and the latest research into the condition.
This National Institutes of Health website offers information about the symptoms, treatment and prognosis for patients with multiple sclerosis, as well as links to clinical trials.
Pediatric neurologists at Riley at IU Health work closely with researchers, neurologists and neuroscientists at the Stark Neurosciences Research Institute at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, where research studies related to multiple sclerosis are underway.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
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