Most people, myself included, tend to think of multiple sclerosis as a disease that affects adults. Although we know that it can affect children, they make up such a small percentage that it easy for us to forget them
The fact that children can get MS was underlined last week by a study that showed Gilenya (fingolimod) significantly delayed disability progression in children when compared with another drug. Results showed a reduction in the number of new lesions, as well as a reduction in brain shrinkage.
Some 5 to 10% of people with MS experience their first symptoms before the age of 16. Therefore, it was apt that the study involved 215 children and adolescents aged 10 to 17 in 25 countries around the world.
There is little difference between MS in adults and children but, in children, it sets additional obstacles to be overcome.
First of all, MS is likely to disrupt a child’s schooling. However, there is support available to help your child to continue to study.
Family life: Children with MS at home
At home, all the family is affected in various way. These can include MS is a condition that affects the whole family. It can affect communication, relationships, mood and daily interactions – in short, every facet of family life.
According to the MS Society, children with MS may show aggression, depression and anxiety when they learn of the diagnosis. At the same time, brothers and sisters may resent, or feel jealous of extra attention that the child with MS is given.
Open discussion of the family’s concerns is important. Having some basic information about MS and how it might affect someone can help.
The MS Society has this advice for families that have a child with MS:
• Talking to other families who are going through the same things as you can help. The MS Society’s online forums are great places to meet people in the same boat.
• The MS Society helpline is there for anyone affected by MS, whatever their age.
• Health and social care professionals can provide support to your child with MS, as well as the rest of the family
• Respite care and short breaks are a valuable opportunity for you and your child to recharge your batteries. Read more about short breaks.
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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.