Multiple sclerosis is the condition that causes degeneration of the fatty myelin sheaths of the nerve cells. The condition can produce a number of symptoms in children, which are discussed in this article.
Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, where the protective myelin sheaths that cover the nerve cells degenerate, which in turn, disrupts the normal communication between the brain and the rest of the body. The immune system attacks and destroys the myelin sheaths of the nerve cells that facilitate the conduction of nerve impulses.
The damage to the nerve cells or neurons caused by this condition is usually not reversible. This autoimmune condition eventually affects vision, speech, movement, and the cognitive functions, which are controlled by the nervous system. The prognosis of multiple sclerosis in children can depend on several factors, such as the extent of damage and the specific neurons that are affected.
Causes and Risk Factors
As has been mentioned already, multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, as it is characterized by an abnormal immune response to healthy tissues of the body. In an autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakenly identifies the healthy tissues of the body as foreign invaders, and attacks them.
In multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the fatty myelin sheaths that cover the neurons. The condition causes the inflammation of the myelin sheaths, and eventually their disappearance or demyelination. Factors like genetics, as well as foreign agents like viruses are supposed to have an important role in the development of this autoimmune disorder.
The condition more commonly affects individuals in the age group of 20 to 40 years, and it has been observed that women are more susceptible to this condition than men. It is also more prevalent in white people, especially those from the northern Europe. It has been observed that people with certain underlying disorders, such as type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, and inflammatory bowel disease are more likely to develop this condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Depending on the particular neurons affected, this condition can present several neurological symptoms. The symptoms can sometimes resolve for a period of time, and then again resurface. In other words, the condition is characterized by remission periods, which can be partial or total. Problems in balance and coordination, vision problems, and abnormal skin sensations are some of the typical symptoms of this condition that can be experienced by both children and adults.
Abnormal skin sensations like numbness, or a tingling or pricking sensation, along with muscle weakness and eye discomfort are the early symptoms of this condition. The early signs and symptoms in children can be a bit difficult to recognize, as many other health conditions can also produce similar symptoms. The symptoms become prominent as the condition progresses, and interferes with more functions of the body.
The following are some of the important signs and symptoms that can be observed in children:
- Sudden loss of vision in one eye
- Double or blurred vision
- Pain during eye movement
- Uncontrollable eye movements
- Difficulty in walking
- Difficulty in maintaining balance and coordination, or ataxia
- Muscle weakness and spasms
- Weakness in one side of the body
- Loss of muscle tone and muscle stiffness
- Muscle twitching
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Bladder problems like urinary incontinence or inability to empty the bladder completely
- Bowel problems like constipation or bowel incontinence
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Pain, especially in the arms and legs
- Abnormal speech pattern
- Problems with attention, concentration, and memory
It is not a curable disease, and so, the treatment is basically aimed at alleviating the symptoms or preventing them from worsening. The medications that are commonly used for this purpose are, corticosteroids, interferons, glatiramer, immunoglobulins, natalizumab, and mitoxantrone. Along with medications, physical therapy and the plasma exchange procedure are employed for treating and managing this autoimmune condition.
Regular physical activity, along with a well-balanced diet, and adequate rest can help a lot in managing some of the symptoms of this condition. An appropriate diet can be designed with the help of your dietitian and doctor. Heat and an increase in body temperature can exacerbate the symptoms of multiple sclerosis in some children. So, it is better to maintain caution while taking a warm bath or shower. To know more about the factors that can worsen the symptoms of this condition, you can talk to your physician. This can help prevent the aggravation of the symptoms, and improve the quality of life.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.