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Multiple Sclerosis in Children and Teens, Different Than Adults

By Deborah Mitchell

Multiple sclerosis (MS) usually develops in adults, but infrequently the neurodegenerative disease is diagnosed in children and teens. In fact, MS in young people may be more common than previously believed, although the diagnosis may be missed and the disease is somewhat different than in adults.

Of the estimated 400,000 people diagnosed with MS in the United States, approximately 10,000 are believed to be younger than 18 years old. Some experts believe this figure may be low, partly because it can be challenging to diagnose the disease in young people.

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One reason why it’s difficult to diagnose MS in children and teens is because they typically demonstrate or present with different signs and symptoms than do adults. For example, young people can experience delirium, lethargy, seizures, stiff neck, fever, headache, and even coma (collectively referred to as acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, or ADEM) before onset of the disease.

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