MS in Children and Our Demyelinating Disease Program

MS MainIt’s been next to impossible to escape the mass appeal of A Great Big World over the past year. A few months ago, they even stopped by our own Seacrest Studios to talk to patients and play an acoustic version of Say Something you can watch below.

Chad Vaccarino From A Great Big World Has Multiple Sclerosis

What we didn’t know at the time of their visit was that one member of the songwriting duo was battling multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system.

In June, Chad Vaccarino posted a video about his battle with MS in which he talks about when he was diagnosed, how the MS affected his body and his multiple sclerosis treatment.

Chad was diagnosed with MS when he was still in college. Although it is rare, 5 to 10% of the approximately 2.3 million people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis are younger than 18 at onset.


Multiple Sclerosis Treatment in Our Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Program

Children’s Medical Center Dallas is home to one of the nation’s leading programs that treats MS in children.

What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis remains a mystery. However, we do know that there are a few common factors that may trigger the disease. Researchers are studying how the body’s own immune system loses the ability to differentiate between itself and foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria.

During the course of the disease, the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord. Evidence shows us that genetics, where a person lives and even exposure to certain viruses each play a significant role in the development of multiple sclerosis.

The Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Program, led by Benjamin Greenberg, M.D., cares for patients who have multiple sclerosis, transverse myelitis, neuromyelitis optica, ADEM and limbic encephalitis.

The multidisciplinary team includes members from:

  • Neurology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Physical therapy
  • Nursing
  • Ophthalmology
  • Social Work
  • School Services
  • Research

Patients with MS are seen by the entire multidisciplinary team in one central location that provides comprehensive and holistic care.

The MS patient’s care is seamlessly transitioned to the Multiple Sclerosis Center at UT Southwestern under the care of the same providers when the patient becomes an adult.

Is Multiple Sclerosis a Life-Threatening Disease?

Audrey Ayres, a registered nurse in the  Pediatric Demyelinating Disease Program at Children’s, says that in the past, having a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis was devastating.

“Without treatment, the body’s immune system would repeatedly attack the myelin (insulation around the nerves) in the brain and spinal cord causing various symptoms like muscle weakness, blindness, sensation changes, bladder dysfunction and pain,” Audrey says. “The body could recover briefly at times and seem to return to ‘normal functioning,’ but the internal damage to the nervous system could eventually cause permanent disability.”

The course of the disease changed dramatically in the 1990s when the first medications were approved by the FDA to prevent relapses and potentially the progression of multiple sclerosis.

In the past 20 years, researchers developed 10 FDA-approved medications with more on the horizon.



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