MS in children
It's thought that around five to ten per cent of people with MS experienced their first symptoms before the age of 16.
Much of the information about MS, its symptoms and how to manage them, is the same for children as for adults. But MS in children can present its own unique challenges – such as coping with school, and the effect it has on the rest of the family.
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MS is different for everyone, including children. Find out more about MS.
Problems with memory and thinking are common symptoms of childhood MS, as are problems with movement such as poor coordination and tremor. However, MS varies from person to person and it’s impossible to predict the particular symptoms someone will have.
Some drug treatments commonly used for MS may not be licensed specifically for children. However, this does not mean that they won’t be useful or that they can’t be used, with careful monitoring.
There are drugs that can reduce the number of relapses someone has with their MS. These are known as disease modifying drugs (DMDs). Some of these can be prescribed to children. Find out more about DMDs.
Having MS can disrupt schooling. However, there is support available to help your child to continue to study.
MS can cause problems with memory and thinking – known as cognition. These can be more difficult to deal with for someone who’s still in school, where they’re being expected to pay attention and take in a lot of information.
MS is a condition that affects the whole family. It can affect communication, relationships, mood and daily interactions. Learning how to live with an unpredictable condition can be hard on everyone.
Children with MS may exhibit a range of emotions and behaviours such as aggression, depression and anxiety as a reaction to the diagnosis. Other siblings may feel resentful or jealous of the attention that the child with MS gets, which can lead to bad behaviour.
Open discussion of the family’s concerns is important. Having some basic information about MS and how it might affect someone can help.
- 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.
- Having MS in the family can have a financial impact. There may be benefits you can claim on behalf of your child.
For more information about MS in children see our booklet 'Childhood MS'.