Doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone are experts at identifying the different types of multiple sclerosis, or MS, in children. This chronic disorder of the central nervous system leads to damage in the brain and spinal cord. It is considered to be an autoimmune disorder, meaning the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.
In MS, the immune system attacks the protective coating of nerves, called the myelin sheath, throughout the central nervous system. Scar tissue called sclerosis—or lesions—forms at the sites of the damaged myelin. This disrupts nerve impulses traveling to and from the brain and spinal cord. The resulting neurological symptoms vary from person to person, depending on the amount of damage to the myelin and the part of the central nervous system that is affected.
Although MS most commonly occurs in adults, it can also affect children and teens. Two to 5 percent of people with MS begin to experience symptoms before age 18.
Symptoms and Causes of Multiple Sclerosis in Children
No one knows what causes MS, though experts believe that genetics and environmental factors play a role in its development. Whereas the genetic factors related to MS are very complex, the risk of a child being diagnosed with MS is somewhat increased if the child has several family members who have the disease.