Multiple sclerosis

Only 3-5% of cases of MS have symptoms before the age of 16. Most have a relapsing-remitting course, particularly in the beginning, typically with one to two relapses per year. The frequency of attacks does seem to predict disease severity and earlier evolution to secondary progressive phase.

Although it takes longer in kids to develop persistent disability, they still develop it at a relatively young age, for example the third or fourth decade of life. That is of course going to have significant effects on life course, including work and family life.

Even at onset, cognitive function is often reduced, which will also affect education and socialisation. So clearly there is interest in disease modifying treatments.

Presentation in younger children often follows an infectious illness. Cognitive impairment is more common relative to older kids.


MRI of brain and spine, looking for demyelinating lesions.

Monoclonal bands in CSF.


Steroids 10-30mg/kg for 3-5 days effective. No good evidence for IVIG. Where acute life threatening symptoms, plasmapheresis may be effective where steroids fail.

In adults good evidence for interferon Beta in relapsing-remitting disease, IM or SC depending on product, reduces relapse rate and probably slows progression of disability. Glatiramer is a synthetic product with similar effects.

Second line treatments in adults include Natalizumab, mitoxantrone and cyclophosphamide.

Differential diagnosis

  • lysosomal storage disorders,
  • various mitochondrial diseases,
  • other neurometabolic disorders,
  • Krabbe, Metachromatic leukodystrophy, X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, Fabry, Niemann-Pick C, Chidak-Higashi.  [Clue is in the name, leukodystrophy]

Since these are genetic conditions, essential for management and genetic counselling.

J Weisfeld-Adams