Multiple Sclerosis (MS) / Autoimmune Disorders (Pediatric)

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system and varies from relatively benign to severely disabling. Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an auto-immune reaction that results when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues.

Over time, myelin—the tissue that protects the nerve fibers—is gradually lost, and scar tissue called sclerosis forms. These damaged nerves can no longer send electrical impulses to and from the brain.

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

Symptoms are erratic and experienced differently by each child. Some have only minor symptoms while others may lose their ability to see clearly, write, speak, or walk.

Initial symptoms may include:

  • blurred or double vision
  • difficulty walking
  • distortion of red and green colors
  • numbness, prickling, or a feeling of "pins and needles” in the limbs
  • pain and loss of vision due to optic neuritis, an inflammation of the optic nerve

Later on, children and teens with MS may experience any or all of the following:

  • bowel and bladder disturbances
  • changes in sexual function
  • depression
  • difficulty walking or standing
  • dizziness
  • fatigue, especially after physical activity
  • hearing loss
  • loss of sensation
  • muscle weakness in the limbs
  • partial or complete paralysis
  • poor coordination
  • spasticity, involuntary muscle spasms and general stiffness
  • speech impediments
  • tremors

Nearly half of all multiple sclerosis patients experience cognitive impairments that affect their concentration, memory, and judgment.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

Our evaluation for MS includes a complete medical history and neurological exam. We assess:

  • balance
  • language skills
  • mental and emotional function
  • movement and coordination
  • sensory function
  • vision

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood tests rule out other causes for neurological symptoms.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is used to analyze cerebral spinal fluid and check for certain cellular and chemical abnormalities associated with MS.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) checks for any changes in the brain tissue. MRI uses a combination of large magnets, radio frequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and anatomical structures. It can also detect the presence of plaque or scarring caused by MS.

What is the treatment for multiple sclerosis?

At present, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, our neurologists use strategies that can modify the course of the disease, treat attacks or sudden flare-ups, manage symptoms, and improve your child’s mobility and ability to function. Treatments for conditions associated with MS are:

  • assistive technology
  • medication
  • rehabilitation activities

Currently, treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis is an active area of research, and there are ongoing clinical trials assessing new therapies.