UCSF Team Battles Pediatric MS
Mar. 15 - KGO (KGO) -- Multiple sclerosis is typically thought of as a neurological disorder affecting adults. But children get it too. With advancements in technology, more young people are being diagnosed earlier. UCSF is one of six centers of excellence focused on pediatric MS and funded by the National MS Society. It's the only center for kids west of the Rockies.
Dr. Dorothee Chabas is a neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis. The debilitating neurological condition identified by lesions on the brain. Every Tuesday, she's part of a multidisciplinary team at UCSF meeting with young patients and their families. A social worker, pediatric neurologist, neurologist and pediatric neuropyschologist, all listen together and offer input.
Twelve-year-old Samantha Richards found out last May her double vision and balance problems were actually symptoms of MS -- an MRI detected the lesions in her brain.
Samantha Richards, multiple sclerosis patient: "I am getting used to taking the medicines, it's just that it hurts, no matter what."
Multiple sclerosis affects about 400,000 people in this country. About 10,000 of them are children or teens. And about 10 to 15 percent of adults diagnosed with MS say they remember having initial symptoms before the age of 18.
Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, Ph.D.: "So what happens is either symptoms are mild enough that they are dismissed by the child or by the parents or by the physicians, or sometimes they're attributed to other diseases that are known to be more frequent in children."
Neurologist Emmanuelle Waubant is Director of UCSF's pediatric MS clinic -- the only one west of the Rockies.
Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, Ph.D.: "About 10 years ago, it was almost impossible to get a child with MS an authorization to receive treatments that were authorized for adults."
But today, most insurance covers the treatment. And most doctors feel comfortable prescribing drugs like Interferon, which help slow the progression of the disease. The six pediatric MS centers across the country operate as a network -- sharing information, discussing difficult cases and collecting data.
Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, Ph.D.: "By building strong clinics, then we can develop very strong research as well."
Research that could help provide important clues to what causes MS.
Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, Ph.D.: "There is probably a set of environmental factors that contribute to the susceptibility of the disease and possibly to the course of the disease."
Dorothee Chabas, MD, Ph.D., Neurologist: "We are trying to collect information from the very beginning and follow them up over time and I think that's a really unique opportunity to do research on MS in general."
But one of the short term goals is simply getting the word out that multiple sclerosis exists in children -- letting community hospitals, pediatricians and internists know the signs.
Emmanuelle Waubant, MD, Ph.D.: "It can be decreased vision, it can be decreased balance, double vision, weakness in one limb or tingling or numbness in different parts of the body."
Mike Richards is just grateful his daughter's diagnosis came quickly and that the team of specialists is here for them at UCSF.
Mike Richards, Samantha's father: "They speak to you as a human being that's got feelings, and they're really concerned and want the best for Sam."
And together they decide on treatment options.
The Richards are taking things one day at a time, while praying for answers.
Mike Richards, Samantha's father: "Find out why it happens and find a cure for it so another child doesn't have to through it -- that would be the ultimate."
This team at UCSF hopes together, they can help do just that.
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