MS in children and adults
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? MS is a disease of the central nervous system - that is, the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is the insulation or covering on the nerves that serves to improve the conduction of nerve impulses and also maintains the health of the nerves. However, with MS, an inflammation causes the myelin to disappear over time. This will eventually cause impairment to patients' vision, speech, memory and motor functions, particularly walking and writing abilities. Approximately 350,000 people in the U.S. have multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms
There are many symptoms of MS that may indicate the onset of the disease. This can include:
- Muscle numbness, weakness, fatigue and pain
- Vision problems (such as blurred vision, blindness in one eye or red-green color distortion)
- Speech impediment, dizziness
- Memory loss
- Impaired judgment and decreased concentration
The intensity of the symptoms can range from mild to severe with long or short durations. Typically, MS is diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 50 years; however, it has also been diagnosed in the elderly and in children. A diagnosis can be made through a combination of neurological and physical examinations.
Multiple sclerosis treatment
Multiple Sclerosis can be treated, but currently, there is no cure. Some of the goals of MS treatment include reducing the number of symptom attacks, helping the recovery from attacks, slowing the progression of the disease and relieving the problems caused by loss of functions.
The most common form of treatment is disease-modifying drugs. Some examples include interferons (Avonex), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone) and natalizumab (Tysabri). Many patients will be placed on medication as soon as they are diagnosed in order to prevent the disease from progressing too rapidly.
Multiple Sclerosis in Children
MS is very rare in children. Only 0.2 – 2 percent of people diagnosed with MS experience their first symptoms as young as 10 years of age. Initial symptoms can include subtle signs such as problems with bladder control, movement difficulties or a disturbance of balance. As with MS in adults, the symptoms and course of the disease in children vary greatly, making it hard to diagnose as well as making it difficult to predict how the child will be affected by the disease in the future. It is common, however, for the symptoms to go through periods of relapse and remission.
Impact on life
As one can imagine, MS can greatly impact a person's life, leaving them unable to do the things that they once enjoyed. Joining support groups or attending counseling can help patients and their families deal with the affects that multiple sclerosis is having on their lives.
For children with MS, cognitive difficulties can prevent them from performing well in school, both academically and emotionally. However, the same drugs used to treat MS in adults can help to alleviate the symptoms found in children. A tutor may provide the extra assistance and personal attention your child needs.
When diagnosed early and treated appropriately, MS can be slowed in its progression, allowing affected children to have active, happy childhoods.