If you have a child with multiple sclerosis (MS), there are many treatments available to help manage their condition.
Some treatments may help slow the development of the disease, while others may help relieve symptoms or potential complications.
Read on to learn about the treatments that your child’s health team might recommend.
Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are a type of medication that can help slow the progression of MS. DMTs may also help prevent relapses, which happen when your child suddenly develops new symptoms.
To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 17 types of DMT for the treatment of MS in adults.
The FDA has not yet approved any DMTs for treating MS in children who are younger than 10 years old. However, your child’s doctor may still prescribe a DMT, even if your child is younger than 10. This is known as “off-label use.”
Early treatment with a DMT may help improve your child’s long-term outlook with MS. However, these medications also pose risks of side effects.
If your child takes a DMT, their doctor should monitor them for side effects. If they don’t respond well to one type of DMT, their doctor might encourage them to switch to another.
Your child’s doctor can explain more about the potential benefits and risks of different DMTs.
In addition to DMTs, there are medications available to treat many symptoms and potential complications of MS.
For example, depending on your child’s treatment needs, their doctor may prescribe medication to treat one or more of the following:
- muscle spasms
- muscle stiffness
- bladder problems
- bowel problems
- vision problems
- mental health conditions
If your child is experiencing a relapse with new symptoms, their doctor may prescribe a short course of treatment with IV corticosteroids. This may help speed up their recovery from the relapse.
If your child develops new symptoms or complications of MS, let their health team know. Their healthcare providers can help you learn about medications and other treatments that might provide relief.
MS can potentially affect your child’s physical and cognitive functioning in a variety of ways.
To help your child learn how to manage daily activities or adapt to their changing needs with MS, their health team may recommend rehabilitation therapy.
For example, they may recommend one or more of the following options:
- Physical therapy (PT). This type of therapy involves exercises designed to strengthen and stretch your child’s muscles and support their mobility, coordination, and balance. If your child uses a mobility aid such a walker or wheelchair, their physical therapist may help them learn how to use it.
- Occupational therapy (OT). The goal of OT is to help your child develop techniques for completing routine activities safely and independently. An occupational therapist can help your child develop energy conservation techniques, learn how to use adaptive tools, and modify their home and school environments to be more accessible.
- Speech-language therapy (SLT). A speech-language therapist or pathologist can help your child cope with problems they might experience with speaking or swallowing.
- Cognitive rehabilitation. A psychologist or other health professional may use cognitive rehabilitation to help your child maintain and improve their thinking and memory skills.
If your child’s condition is affecting their ability to move around, communicate, concentrate, or complete other routine tasks, let their health team know. They can help you learn more about rehabilitation therapy and how it might fit into your child’s treatment plan.
Coping with MS can be stressful. Along with the other potential symptoms and complications, your child might experience feelings of grief, anger, anxiety, or depression.
If your child is experiencing emotional or mental health challenges, their doctor may refer them to a mental health specialist for diagnosis and treatment. Their doctor or mental health specialist may recommend behavioral counseling, medication, or both.
You should also let your doctor know if you’re finding it hard to cope with the emotional challenges of managing your child’s condition. You might benefit from professional support, too. Feeling well-supported emotionally may enable you to be even more effective in supporting your child.
In addition to medications, rehabilitation therapy, and other medical treatments, your child’s health team might recommend changes to their lifestyle to help manage their condition.
For example, they might recommend changes to their:
- exercise routine
- sleep habits
- study habits
- leisure activities
Many of the lifestyle habits recommended for managing MS are the same lifestyle habits that support general good health. For example, there’s no specific diet recommended for MS. Your child will likely benefit from eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Your child’s health team may also encourage your child to limit their exposure to hot temperatures. When your child’s body temperature rises, it may worsen their symptoms.
Getting early and comprehensive treatment for your child may help improve their health and quality of life with MS.
Depending on your child’s specific needs, their health team may recommend disease-modifying therapies and other medications, rehabilitation therapy, lifestyle changes, or other treatments.
To learn more about the potential benefits and risks of different treatment approaches, speak to your child’s healthcare providers.