MS is usually thought of as an adult condition, but children and teenagers can also develop it. In fact, children as young as two years old have been diagnosed with childhood MS (also called pediatric MS).
According to the Atlas of MS, there are estimated to be around 2.3 million people with MS in the world. It’s not clear how many are under the age of 16, but up to ten per cent of people with MS experience their first symptoms before the age of 16.
Diagnosing MS in children is more challenging than in adults due to the frequency of other childhood disorders with similar symptoms and characteristics. Pediatricians may not be familiar with MS because they are not expecting to see it in children. However, as a result of increased awareness of childhood MS among neurologists and advances in technology, the number of children diagnosed with MS is steadily growing.
Neurologists are finding that MS in children has different characteristics and there are fewer therapies that have been tested for being safe or effective for the treatment of children with MS. The first licensed therapy to treat pediatric MS – fingolimod – was approved in the US in 2018. The International Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis Study Group (IPMSSG) is a network of adult and pediatric neurologists, researchers, representatives of MS organisations and others. The group – which was funded by MSIF and our members for many years – aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of pediatric MS.
If your child has been diagnosed with MS, or MS has been suggested as a possible cause for your child’s symptoms, you may have lots of questions.
Childhood MS: A guide for parents is a free downloadable resource intended to provide answers to some of these questions. It should help you to understand more about the care your child should receive, and the kind of support you are entitled to in order to manage the changes MS can bring.
Download the Childhood MS Guide
Pediatric MS and other demyelinating disorders in childhood: Current understanding, diagnosis and management
The International Pediatric MS Study Group have written a series of articles, highlighting the advances, unanswered questions and new challenges in understanding, diagnosis and management. These articles have been published in a Neurology journal supplement, which you can access for free here: http://www.neurology.org/content/87/9_Supplement_2.
We have produced a short publication which summarises the key points from each of these articles, with links to the full articles. This publication is aimed at people with some prior knowledge of MS in children, but is written in plain, accessible language.