How does multiple sclerosis affect children?

At what age does multiple sclerosis usually manifest itself?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects mostly young people, usually people around the age of 30 who present the first symptom of this disease. However, sometimes, although this is rare, in approximately 5% of the cases it can occur in pediatric ages.

What are the characteristics of multiple sclerosis at an early age?

We should know that pediatric multiple sclerosis usually presents in the form of outbreaks. We understand by outbreaks, the appearance of neurological symptoms such as: decreased vision in one eye, double vision or numbness in the legs that may last 2 or 3 weeks.

At adolescent ages, the disease is usually more active than what we see in adults, so it is common for children to have a disease with more flares. However, children are more resilient than adults. Therefore, children and adolescents can have frequent and severe outbreaks, but also with a very important capacity for recovery.

How do these outbreaks affect a child’s daily life?

It is easy to imagine that a child who starts with a visual problem, such as double vision, difficulty walking, etc., causes us a sense of alarm. These children are taken to a hospital, where a diagnosis will be made. For this, various tests may be required to determine whether it is multiple sclerosis or one of its variants. These tests may include: a brain MRI, a lumbar puncture to study the presence of oligoclonal bands and the determination of a series of biomarkers such as antibodies (anti MOG or anti AQP4).

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Another very different thing is then the impact that a diagnosis of this type will have on the psychological level for the child, for his parents, for the school and for his entire environment. For this reason, it is important that we can transmit to them what the disease is like and how to learn to live with it. However, although it is a complicated diagnosis, most children will be able to lead a normal life with follow-up and treatment.

What treatments are available in current medicine to deal with this pathology?

First of all, multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, which means that our defenses are the ones that go wrong and attack the sheath that covers our neurons, the myelin. By leaving this wire stripped, you can lose sensation in an arm or vision in an eye.

As we have said, our body has the capacity to repair and recover. Treatments today do not remake that sheath or cure the disease, but we do have treatments that slow down the disease to prevent our defenses from continuing to go wrong. For this, we have numerous treatments that have shown great efficacy in very significantly decreasing the probability of having an outbreak.

There are treatments capable of clearly reducing the frequency and severity of outbreaks and therefore of preventing the disease from leading to the development of disability in the long term. In addition, the use of more convenient and effective oral treatment options has recently been approved, which may gradually displace the classic treatments that required injected drugs.

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Finally, it is important to emphasize the importance of early treatment to prevent long-term disability. It is also important to mention that in addition to pharmacological treatment, it is essential for the child or adolescent to lead a healthy lifestyle, which implies regular exercise, avoiding overweight and not smoking.