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.
This month’s edition of Health Dialogues, part of KQED’s California Report, focuses on living with disease. In the report, KQED reporters talk to folks living with chronic disease, the effects of traumatic injury and other conditions that can have lasting effects on a person’s quality of life.
Done with caution and a critical eye, coverage of limited but promising research can provide a needed dose of optimism for people with MS and their families. Unfortunately, in this case, that journalistic prudence was almost totally missing.
Bagley said that, through over-the-top reporting and selective coverage of the small-scale control-free study had inspired false hope and misled readers.