A new study says that children with multiple sclerosis have low IQ and impaired thinking as compared to people who develop the condition in later life.
Children with MS are at an increased risk of having low IQ scores and problems with memory, attention and thinking skills.
"It's possible that MS can show an even more dramatic effect on the thinking skills and intelligence in children than in adults, since the disease might affect the brain at a time when it is still developing," said Dr Maria Pia Amato, study author, of the University of Florence in Italy.
During the analysis, the researchers compared 63 children under age 18 with MS to 57 healthy children of similar ages.
They were also asked to take 17 tests to measure their overall intelligence, memory, language abilities, and other thinking skills.
The findings revealed that 5 of the children with MS had very low IQ scores of less than 70 and 15 had IQ scores between 70 and 89.
A total of 19 children with MS met the criteria for cognitive impairment by failing at least three of the tests, while less than five percent of the healthy children failed at least three tests.
Nearly 30 percent of the children with MS showed language difficulties, which is not common in adults with MS.
However, the researchers were unable to include the effects whether positive or negative, of MS medications on cognitive function. Also, the possible role of depression in these findings was not systematically assessed.
"Since the disease occurs during a critical phase for language development, children may be particularly vulnerable to language problems," said Amato.
We need to understand how the disease affects kids so we can help them manage their difficulties and academic challenges," she added.
The study is published in the May 13, 2008, issue of Neurology(r), the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.