Pediatric MS on the rise in the northwest, drawing research attention

As part of a collaboration between KOUW and Investigate West, Carol Smith examined the rise of pediatric multiple sclerosis in the Pacific Northwest, a region that already has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

Hard numbers are difficult to come by because the diagnosis is so complicated, but Smith writes that “current estimates suggest that between 18,000 and 25,000 children nationally either have MS, or have experienced symptoms suggestive of MS – some as young as age 5.”

Doctors aren’t sure what’s driving the apparent increase. It’s likely partly from improved diagnostic techniques and increasing awareness among pediatricians that MS can occur early in life. But some also think that the growing onslaught of chemical exposures in the environment may be making immune systems more vulnerable to whatever triggers the illness.

And the pivotal role adolescence could have in the shaping of a lifetime’s susceptibility to MS makes studying young MS sufferers a particularly critical task — a task which Smith explores further in a follow-up piece.