Pediatric multiple sclerosis - current status of epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment

Neurol Neurochir Pol. 2020;54(6):508-517. doi: 10.5603/PJNNS.a2020.0069. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory and demyelinating disease of the central nervous system that mostly affects younger adults. However, the first symptoms of MS can appear in children and adolescents before the age of 18, and we call this paediatric MS (PMS). It is estimated that paediatric MS accounts for 3-5% of the general population of patients with MS. Despite the fundamental si-milarities to adult MS, PMS has many distinctive features. Paediatric MS has a milder course compared to adults, but leads to sig-nificant disability at an early age. PMS is relapsing-remitting in 95-98% of cases; the primary progressive manifestation is much less common than in adults. The differential diagnosis of MS in children should include other childhood demyelinating diseases, mitochondrial and metabolic diseases, connective tissue diseases, and neuroborreliosis. Differentiating acute disseminated en-cephalomyelitis (ADEM) from the first onset of MS remains the biggest challenge. Over the past 10 years, understanding of the epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment of MS in children has significantly expanded. The diagnostic criteria leading to earlier diagnosis and initiation of disease-modifying therapy (DMT) have changed, and the number of drugs used in children has increased. However, many important issues require further research. This review discusses the current state of knowledge regarding the epidemiology, diagnosis, and treatment of multiple sclerosis in children.

Keywords: development age; diagnosis; epidemiology; multiple sclerosis; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Central Nervous System
  • Child
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / diagnosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / epidemiology
  • Multiple Sclerosis* / therapy