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Pediatric MS

Discover what it’s like to navigate a diagnosis of pediatric MS as you explore stories of children, teens, parents, and providers in this video.

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What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.

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In this article

MS in children and teens

MS in children is not that different from MS in adults.  Less than 5,000 children and teens are living with MS in the United States and less than 10,000 worldwide.  Diagnosing MS in children is more challenging than in adults because of other childhood disorders with similar symptoms and characteristics.

Children with MS exclusively have a relapsing-remitting course, which means there are clear attacks (relapses) of symptoms that subside (remit). During the periods of remission between attacks, there is no progression of the disease. Even though children may experience frequent relapses (possibly more than typically seen in adults), studies have shown that children also seem to have very good recovery that is often more rapid than that of adults.

Treating pediatric MS

The treatment of MS in children and teens, as well as adults, involves several strategies:
  • Modifying the disease course
  • Managing relapses
  • Maximizing lifestyle interventions
  • Managing symptoms
There are medications that are effective at preventing relapses and disability accumulation known as disease modifying therapies (DMTs). More than a dozen DMTs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat adults with relapsing forms of MS. In May 2018, the FDA approved the use of the oral MS therapy Gilenya® (fingolimod) for the treatment of children and adolescents 10 years of age or older with relapsing forms of MS.
 
Many of the medications used for adults with MS have been studied in children with MS. Skilled pediatric MS healthcare providers can adapt the treatments with FDA approval in adults for their younger patients. 

What You Need to Know About Gilenya®

This video was created in 2019 after the approval of fingolimod in patients with MS age ten years and older.  Features Brenda Banwell, MD of Children's Hospital Philadelphia. Information is accurate as of then. Please visit the medication section of our website or www.gilenya.com for the most updated information.

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The National MS Society is your trusted partner and resource for pediatric MS and will help you with the resources you need to keep moving forward.
 

Pediatric MS centers and providers

The Network of Pediatric MS Centers provides comprehensive evaluation and care to children and teens with MS and related CNS demyelinating disorders. A child does not need to have a definite diagnosis of MS in order to be evaluated at one of these centers.

In addition to centers within the network, you can also search our directory or contact an MS Navigator to find other providers across the country who treat children and teens.

Pediatric MS support

Connect with other families
Connecting with other parents who can relate with what you’re going through can really help you navigate this uncertain time and feel empowered. There are several online groups where you can connect with others: Contact an MS Navigator®
Making sound decisions relies on having the right information at the right time. Our MS Navigators are highly skilled professionals equipped to respond to your needs, including finding a provider in your community, answering questions about MS or helping you connect with others.  No question is too big or too small. Contact an MS Navigator to learn more.

Research

Pediatric MS research and clinical trials provide insights that adult MS research doesn’t.  Risk factors and prevention of MS are two areas that may benefit from pediatric research. The approval of Gilenya in 2018 for children with MS over age 10 resulted from the participation of children and teens in research.  
 
There are multiple studies of pediatric MS currently underway in the US and around the world. Learn more about participating in clinical trials or find ongoing pediatric MS studies.

Additional resources

Kids Get MS Too: A Handbook for Parents Whose Child or Teen has MS
You’ve just heard that your child has MS. We’re here to help you learn about MS so you can feel confident in helping your child take charge of his or her life. Download now.

Pediatric-Onset Multiple Sclerosis: Unique Features and Important Considerations- A collaborative webinar from the National MS Society and Can Do MS featuring Anusha Yeshokumar, MD and James Sumowski, PhD of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Watch now.

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