Background and purpose: Multiple sclerosis (MS) onset before puberty is extremely rare and establishment of diagnosis is often difficult due to atypical presentation. The study aims to identify the typical presentation of MS in this age group.
Methods: Pediatric MS patients were identified from the database of the Center for Multiple Sclerosis in Childhood and Adolescence at the University Medical Center Göttingen, Germany. Inclusion criteria were a relapsing-remitting initial disease course and minimum disease duration of 4 years.
Results: Forty-seven pre-pubertal (<11 years) and 41 post-pubertal (14-16 years) MS patients were compared. Before puberty an even gender ratio was found. The pre-pubertal patients were more likely to have a polysymptomatic severe first attack with motor and brainstem involvement, sphincter dysfunction, cognitive disturbances and milder residual neurological sequelae after the first episode whilst the post-pubertal patients predominantly presented with optic neuritis and sensory symptoms. The initial symptom pattern prevailed over the first 2 years of disease. Presentation of pre-pubertal boys and girls did not differ significantly.
Conclusions: To facilitate early diagnosis it is important to recognize that pre-pubertal MS presents with a specific pattern of symptoms that is maintained over the first two disease years.
Keywords: children; multiple sclerosis; pediatric; puberty.
© 2013 The Author(s) European Journal of Neurology © 2013 EFNS.