MS in children

Photo shows hands of young person clasped in hands of older person against a wood grain background

We're used to thinking of MS as an adult condition, but children and teenagers can also develop it. 

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.

Symptoms and treatment

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.

Find out more about symptoms and how to manage them.

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.

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MS and school

Having MS can disrupt schooling. However, there is support available to help your child to continue to study.

Find out more in our factsheets on education for children with MS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and in Scotland.  

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.

Read more about managing problems with memory and thinking.

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MS and the family

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.

Read more about MS.

Getting help

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For more information about MS in children see our booklet 'Childhood MS'.

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