Multiple Sclerosis—Child



MS is a chronic, disabling disease of the central nervous system. It causes injury to the sheath called myelin that covers nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.
Nerve Fiber (Neuron)
Myelin Sheath Damage
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A malfunction of the body's immune system seems to be the cause of MS. The immune system attacks and damages the myelin. The exact cause of this malfunction is unknown.

Risk Factors

MS is more common in females. Other factors that may increase your child's chance of MS include:


There are many different types of MS. When it occurs during childhood, the condition usually takes the form of relapsing and remitting. This means that the symptoms suddenly reappear every few months or years, last for a few weeks or months, then go back into remission.
The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include:
Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:


MS is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, but it can be found in children.
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your child's nerve responses may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with an MRI scan .


The goals of MS treatment are to:
Work with the doctor to develop a treatment plan for your child. Options include:


Examples of medications used to treat MS in children include:
  • Corticosteroids—to reduce inflammation and shorten MS flare-ups
  • Interferon beta—used to suppress the immune system
  • Intravenous immunoglobulin—a type of antibody

Plasma Exchange

With plasma exchange , the proteins causing the damage to the myelin are removed from the blood. During the plasma exchange, fresh plasma is added to the blood.

Other Treatments

Depending on the symptoms, the doctor may recommend that your child works with a:
  • Physical therapist to help with muscle strength and tone, dexterity, and walking ability—Participating in a regular exercise program may also be helpful.
  • Speech/language pathologist
  • Occupational therapist to help with daily living tasks
  • Psychologist or therapist to help with coping skills
Your child may also need support from teachers and staff at school.

Alternative Treatments

Some people with MS have found alternative treatments, such as massage , acupuncture , and magnet therapy helpful. If you are interested in these types of treatments for your child, talk to the doctor.


There are no guidelines for preventing MS. There may be some steps that you can take to prevent your child from having flare-ups, for example:


Multiple Sclerosis Association of America

National Multiple Sclerosis Society


Health Canada

Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada


Multiple sclerosis. American Association of Neurological Surgeons website. Available at: Updated November 2005. Accessed September 15, 2015.

Multiple sclerosis. Children’s Hospital Boston website. Available at: Updated 2012. Accessed September 15, 2015.

Multiple sclerosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated May 6, 2015. Accessed September 15, 2015.

Multiple sclerosis. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital website. Available at: Accessed September 15, 2015.

Munger KL, et al. Body size and risk of MS in two cohorts of US women. Neurology. 2009;73(19):1543-1550.

Pediatric MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: Accessed September 15, 2015.

Treating MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: Accessed September 15, 2015.

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