What is the prevalence of pediatric multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Updated: Jan 30, 2019
  • Author: Alice K Rutatangwa, DO, MSc; Chief Editor: Amy Kao, MD  more...
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While the worldwide prevalence of pediatric MS is unknown, data are available from individual countries or MS centers. Several large series [18, 19, 20, 21] report prevalence rates of MS onset in childhood or adolescence ranging from 2.2%–4.4% of all MS cases, while some MS referral centers report that up to 10% of their patients with MS experienced symptom onset prior to age 18 years. [22] In general, pediatric MS onset prior to age 10 years is rare and constitutes approximately 20% of the reported pediatric cases in large series. [8]

In 2011, a population based study in Southern California showed that, in the multiethnic cohort of Kaiser Permanente, the incidence rate of pediatric MS was 0.51 per 100,000 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.33–0.75), and the incidence of other forms of acute demyelinating syndrome, including optic neuritis, transverse myelitis, other forms of clinically isolated syndromes, and ADEM, was 1.56 per 100,000 person-years (95% CI, 1.23–1.95), for an overall incidence of acute demyelinating syndrome of 1.66 per 100,000 person-years (95% CI 1.32–2.06). [23]

It is unclear whether the incidence of pediatric MS has increased in the past decades or is merely being increasingly recognized owing to improved diagnostic criteria and medical awareness.

The sex ratio of pediatric MS varies by age. Before age 6 years, the ratio of MS in girls to boys is 0.8:1. It increases closer to the ratio observed in adults as children age. [5] The effect of ethnicity on risk of childhood-onset MS is poorly understood.

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