More about Multiple Sclerosis in Children. If you are reaching this page first, and would like to read Part 1, click here.
About 8,000 to 10,000 children under age 18 in the US are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This statistic comes from The National MS Society. This equals about 3 to 5% of those living with MS. Some say the number may be as high as 10%.
It may seem as though multiple sclerosis in children is increasing nowadays. But it may have been just as likely for them to get it years ago. With technology like MRI's available now, it is easier to diagnose the disease earlier.
Many pediatricians are still not familiar with multiple sclerosis in children. For one, they just don't expect to see it in children.
If you have a history of MS in your family and suspect that your child might have multiple sclerosis, let your pediatrician know. Either way, he will most likely refer your child to a neurologist.
As I said earlier, symptoms, such as trouble walking may not show up for as many as 10 years. The earlier the onset of MS in children, the slower the disease usually progresses. However, there may be more disability as they reach adulthood.
Most of the symptoms children experience are similar to those in adults. There are a few symptoms that rarely occur in adults. Lethargy or abnormal drowsiness, and seizures are more likely to occur in children.
Children with MS are also likely to have vision problems. Optic neuritis can happen very early, sometimes before the age of 2. Having an episode of optic neuritis doesn't always mean that a child will develop MS. If an MRI shows lesions than the chance is a little higher that they will.
Most children are diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. They will have times when they feel perfectly fine and then suffer an attack or relapse.
Multiple sclerosis doesn't keep children from going to school. (Although a severe exacerbation might). They can also get jobs and eventually get married and have children.
Just as many adults lead normal lives, having MS at a young age shouldn't stop you from encouraging your child to pursue their dreams. (Or you, if you are a teenager living with multiple sclerosis).
As a parent with a younger child who has been diagnosed, it's hard to know how much to tell them. Besides feeling guilt that you possibly caused your child to have MS, you have no idea how to explain to them what it is.
First of all, you, as a parent, need to deal with your own feelings of guilt or anger. Whatever you are feeling, make sure you have your emotions under control before talking to your child. At least be able to express them in a way your child can understand.
Most therapists say it's best to tell your child the truth. And you know your child and how best to do that. You will be able to help them decide when and how to tell their friends or other family members.