What is multiple sclerosis?

Also known as: MS

Multiple sclerosis (MS), is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system, which normally helps us fight a variety of infections, attacks and inflames its own central nervous system. MS affects the brain, spinal cord, optic nerves (CNS), and particularly the myelin sheath (the fatty layer that protects and helps nerves send information from one place to another), damaging them and slowing or preventing messages from being sent between the brain and different parts of the body.

There are a number of types of multiple sclerosis:

  • Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), most children have this type
  • Primary progressive MS
  • Secondary progressive MS (SPMS).


What causes multiple sclerosis?

The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is not known, but probably involves genetic inherited abnormalities which make children more susceptible and environmental factors (like infection, toxins or drugs) that trigger the process. Risk factors include; being female, white, having a parent or sibling with the disease and living in a temperate climate.


What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

Symptoms can appear in infants (before 2 years of age). However, most children with MS are diagnosed during adolescence.

  • Children with RRMS have attacks of symptoms (relapse) which come and go (remit).
  • Children with PPMS have symptoms which remain or get worse.
  • Secondary progressive MS symptoms continue to get steadily worse.

Symptoms vary depending on where in the CNS inflammation occurs but may include:

  • muscle weakness
  • exhaustion, balance and coordination problems
  • dizziness, blurry and other vision issues
  • strange sensation like numbness or prickling
  • problems with memory, thinking or judgement
  • emotional problems


What are multiple sclerosis care options?

While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, there are treatments that can help slow the disease and control symptoms. These include steroids and disease-modifying medications. Rehabilitation therapy (physical and occupational), psychotherapy and counseling are also helpful.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 1/29/2019 3:21:13 PM

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