When your child starts a new treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS), it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for signs of change in their condition.
After starting a new treatment, your child might experience improvements in their physical or mental health. They might also develop side effects from treatment.
Take a moment to learn how starting a new treatment might affect your child.
Many disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) have been developed to slow the progression of MS.
So far, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one of these therapies for use in children ages 10 years or over — and it’s approved none for use in children under 10.
However, doctors may still prescribe DMTs to younger children with MS. This practice is known as “off-label” use.
Your child’s healthcare providers may also prescribe other treatments for MS, including one or more of the following:
- other medications to relieve physical or cognitive symptoms of MS
- rehabilitative therapy to support your child’s physical or cognitive functioning
- use of mobility aids or other assistive devices to help your child do routine activities
- nerve stimulation procedures or surgery to treat bladder problems
- psychological counseling to support your child’s mental health
- lifestyle changes
If your child’s condition changes in any way, let members of their health team know.
To manage new or worsened symptoms, their healthcare providers might recommend changes to their treatment plan. Their health team might also recommend a change if new treatments become available, or new research is published on the safety or effectiveness of existing treatments.
After starting a new treatment for MS, your child might experience improvements in their physical or mental health and functioning.
The potential benefits vary from one type of treatment to another.
Depending on the specific treatment your child receives:
- They might experience fewer or less severe flares, exacerbations, or relapses.
- They might experience less pain, fatigue, dizziness, muscle spasms, or muscle stiffness.
- Their mobility, coordination, balance, flexibility, or strength might improve.
- They might have fewer problems with their bladder or bowel function.
- They might find it easier to concentrate or remember things.
- Their ability to communicate might improve.
- Their vision or hearing might get better.
- They might feel better emotionally.
Your child’s healthcare providers may also notice encouraging results in evaluations or tests they perform after your child starts a new treatment.
For example, they might perform MRI scans and see no signs of new disease activity.
On the other hand, it’s also possible that your child’s condition won’t noticeably or adequately improve after they start a new treatment. In some cases, MRI scans or other tests might show that their condition hasn’t improved or is getting worse.
If you’re not satisfied with the effects of a new treatment, let your child’s health team know. They can help you understand the potential benefits and risks of stopping or continuing the treatment. They can also help you learn about other treatments that might be available.
Treatments for MS might cause side effects, which may be mild or more severe.
The specific side effects vary from one type of treatment to another.
For example, common side effects of many DMTs include:
- muscle aches
- pain and redness at the site of injection, for injectable DMTs
To learn more about the possible side effects of your child’s prescribed treatment, talk to their health team. They can help you learn how to recognize and manage potential side effects.
If you think that your child might be experiencing side effects from treatment, let their health team know. In some cases, they might recommend changes to your child’s treatment plan.
If your child develops trouble breathing or they become unresponsive or unconscious, get emergency medical treatment. Call 911 right away. They might be experiencing a severe allergic reaction to medication.
Also seek immediate medical attention if your child develops signs or symptoms of a serious infection, such as fever accompanied by:
Some treatments may raise your child’s risk for infection.
Some treatments might be more acceptable or convenient for you and your child than other options.
For example, your child might be more comfortable and willing to take oral medications than injectable medications. Or your family might find that one treatment center has a more convenient location or hours than another.
Some treatments may also be easier for your family to afford than others. If you have health insurance, it might cover certain treatments or healthcare providers but not others.
If you or your child finds it difficult to stick to their updated treatment plan, let their health team know. They might share tips for making the treatment plan easier to follow, or they might recommend changes to your child’s treatment plan.
To monitor the effects of treatment, your child’s healthcare providers might order one or more tests. For example, they may order:
- MRI scans
- blood tests
- urine tests
- heartbeat monitoring
Depending on the specific treatments your child receives, their health team may need to order tests on a regular and ongoing basis.
Your child’s health team may also ask you and your child questions about their symptoms, physical and cognitive functioning, and potential side effects of treatment.
These follow-up tests and assessments can help your child’s health team learn how their current treatment plan is working.
After your child starts a new treatment, it might take time for you to notice any effects.
If you think your child’s current treatment plan isn’t working or is making them feel worse, let their health team know.
In some cases, they might recommend changes to your child’s treatment plan. They may also have tips for managing the side effects or costs of treatment.