MS Society study gives insight into childhood MS
Published date: 14 Jun 2012 at 10:24AM
Research co-funded by the MS Society has discovered the UK has the highest reported incidence rate in the world for children aged 15 and under who experience their first MS-like attack.
Around 125 children will experience what's thought to be their first MS-like attack every year.
The 'attack' is often diagnosed as Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS), where problems with eyesight or numbness in the hands and feet, flare up and then disappear again.
It's thought around one in 20 adults with MS will experience their first symptoms in childhood, but children who experience a second MS attack at a young age are usually diagnosed with childhood MS.
Researchers hope these findings will help raise the profile of childhood MS among health professionals, potentially leading to a quicker diagnosis and more tailored support for young people.
The MS Society and Action Medical Research funded the work, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children's Hospital. They also discovered that:
- the average age for the first MS-like symptom was 10 years old
- in children aged 10 years and older, more girls than boys were affected - in keeping with the diagnosis ratio that MS affects twice as many women as men.
Michael Absoud, Clinical Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, who worked on the study said: "Not all children who experience an MS-like attack will go on to develop the condition - some will recover fully and never experience similar symptoms again, while others have longer term problems that eventually lead to a diagnosis of MS."
"Although rare, MS can occur in childhood but knowledge about the number of children affected by the condition, how the illness progresses and how it could best be treated is severely lacking, which is why our research is so important."
Researchers gathered data by surveying paediatricians and ophthalmologists from across the UK, asking them to report if they had treated children presenting MS-like symptoms. The results have been published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and were compared with findings from similar studies carried out in Canada and Germany, which reported lower incidence rates.
Investing in further research
To further Childhood MS research, the MS Society is investing in research at the University of Manchester which will assess the experiences of children with MS as well as the support needs of their families and carers.
Dr Doug Brown, Head of Biomedical Research at the MS Society, said: "Around one in 20 adults with MS experience their first symptoms in childhood, so this is an incredibly important area of research for us."
"Historically MS has always been considered as an older person's condition, but we're now seeing people diagnosed much younger, so the more we understand about childhood MS the better health professionals can be at diagnosing the condition and offering treatment and vital support to young people and their families."
"Not all children who experience an MS-like attack will go on to develop the condition - some will recover fully and never experience similar symptoms again, while others have longer term problems that eventually lead to a diagnosis of MS." Michael Absoud, Clinical Research Fellow, University of Birmingham
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