Early Onset Multiple Sclerosis

Unfortunately a friend of mine called last night to tell me her 11 yr old granddaughter  was diagnosed with MS.  After we cried together for a few minutes I told her I have heard about early onset ms but I didn’t know anything about it.  I told Debra I’d write a post so here I am.

The Webmd.com is a reliable source of information who talks of how Multiple Sclerosis (MS) occurs most commonly in adults, it is increasingly being diagnosed in children and teenagers. Of the 400,000 diagnosed cases of MS in the U.S., 8,000 to 10,000 are in children up to 18 years old. Neurologists think there are probably many more children with MS that have not been diagnosed.

How MS Is Different in Children

Multiple sclerosis may manifest itself differently in children and adults. In children, it may begin after a period of neurological symptoms called acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM). For most children, the symptoms of ADEM — including headaches, delirium, lethargy, coma, seizures, stiff neck, and fever — are temporary. But other children continue to have symptoms or experience additional symptoms that meet the criteria of MS.

MS is thought to progress more slowly in children than in adults; however, significant disability can occur at an earlier age in people whose MS begins in childhood or adolescence. The cognitive and psychological consequences of MS are likely greater in children and adolescents and may affect academic performance, self-image, and relationships with peers.

MS Symptoms in Children

The symptoms of MS in children are similar to those in adults and may include:

  • Problems with bladder or bowel control
  • Weakness
  • Problems with walking
  • Vision changes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Sensory changes, tingling, or numbness
  • Tremors

In addition, children may experience seizures and lethargy that are not typical in adults.

The symptoms of MS can be erratic. They may be mild or severe. They may last a long time or just a short time.

MS Treatment in Children

Although there is no cure for MS, there are several treatments that can improve life for children with the disease. Treatment of MS in children as well as adults has three main goals: to treat attacks, to prevent future attacks, and to relieve symptoms.

Treating MS Attacks in Children

Corticosteroid medications are used to reduce inflammation in the brain and spinal cord during attacks of MS. The main corticosteroid used for MS attacks is Solu-medrol (methylprednisolone), which is given by IV once a day for three to five days. Sometimes doctors prescribe an oral corticosteroid called prednisone for a short time following the IV medication.

Although most children tolerate corticosteroids well, for some they cause side effects, including moodiness and behavior changes, increases in blood pressure and blood sugar, and stomach irritation. Doctors can treat these problems if necessary.

If corticosteroids alone don’t bring enough improvement, other treatments, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and plasma exchange, are available to treat MS attacks.

Preventing Attacks of MS

Although corticosteroids can ease MS attacks, they do not prevent them. Doctors prescribe other types of drugs for that purpose. While decreasing the number of attacks, these drugs may also slow the disease’s progression to disability.

Medications for MS are not approved by the FDA for treatment in patients younger than 18. However, doctors use immunomodulating drugs to treat children with MS, although dosing is modified.

Medications used for pediatric MS include:

Extensive studies have found these drugs to be effective and safe in adults with MS. Similar results have been seen in small studies of children with MS.

These medications are given by injection — either into the muscle or beneath the skin. Your child’s doctor or nurse can work with you to make the injections less troublesome. Teenagers may be able to give themselves the injections.

In addition, treatments may be recommended for specific symptoms related to MS, such as muscle spasm, fatigue, and depression.

As with all medications, they can cause side effects. The most common side effects with interferons are flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle aches, and headaches, which start shortly after the injections. Your child’s doctor can minimize these and other side effects by starting the medication at a low dose, increasing it gradually, and giving other medications to relieve the side effects.

The most common side effect of Copaxone is redness and swelling at the injection site. If this occurs, techniques such as applying cold packs can help ease swelling.

Treating MS Symptoms

Symptoms such as fatigue, numbness or tingling, muscle stiffness, and depression may linger following an attack. Fortunately there are many treatments, including physical and occupational therapy, counseling, and medications, to help relieve these symptoms.

It is also important to remember that not every symptom a child with MS experiences can be attributed to MS. Children with MS get the same illnesses that other children get. Fevers or infections may worsen MS symptoms temporarily, but symptoms generally improve once the fever subsides or infection is controlled.

MS is a very scary disease, and I believe that one of the best defenses is knowledge. So parents and grandparents like Debra, don’t freak out.  Take a deep breath and realize you have done the most important thing, you have overcome denial and you’re ready to learn.  Reach out for help, we’re a great community to support you.  Visit us often and Book a Meeting some personal time with me if you’d like by clicking on this link:http://msrelief-meeting-with-linda.youcanbook.me



About our Co-Founder: With a bachelors in Social Work, Linda is 53 years old, happily married with eight children and 17 grandchildren. Diagnosed with MS in 1995 and now having accepted and truly embraced her new reality, Linda has created MSrelief.com. She is dedicated to proving that joy can be chosen while living with Multiple Sclerosis. Linda specializes in helping others, especially those with MS attain the lifestyle, independence and happiness amid living with MS.


  1. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is required to get set up? I’m assuming
    having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very web smart so I’m not 100% sure. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • Zack,
      With your site, pediatricsnursing.org it looks like you know the basics! We use the Thesis Theme and the link is on the left at the bottom of the home page, then you need a hosting site for a WordPress blog and the GoDaddy link is there too! Good Luck with your site!!! Come back and show us what you have!

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