A new study suggests that certain factors regarding the brain development of teenagers could give insight into how multiple sclerosis develops in some patients. This could be a great lesson in how to decrease the risk of MS, as well as how the disease develops in general.
The study, which was led by Scott Montgomery, professor at Orebro University in Sweden, attempted to figure out if concussions in teenagers would denote an increased risk of multiple sclerosis later in life. Researchers examined medical records of patients that were diagnosed with a concussion between the ages of 11-20. The researchers then examined how many of those patients developed multiple sclerosis later in life when compared with a control group that didn't get concussions.
The study initially suggested that the researcher's hypothesis was true. For patients who had one concussion in between the ages of 11-20, the risk of multiple sclerosis later in life increased by about 22 percent. Teenagers who had two or more concussions between the age of 11-20 had a staggering 133 percent increase in multiple sclerosis risk.
Researchers later clarified that there are secondary factors that have to be taken into consideration. They emphasized that developing MS was based on genetic predispositions and environmental factors. In other words, most children who develop concussions will not have to worry about increased MS risk because they do not have the genetic markers necessary to develop the disease.
The other thing to consider is that the researchers are not necessarily saying these concussions are due to the children's actions. They believe that these concussions may be a sign that their body's immune system is attacking the insulating layer of nerve cells which eventually causes them to function improperly (thereby leading to MS). This means that those more susceptible to concussions during their teenage years are likely also susceptible to MS in later years.
This study may prove valuable by allowing doctors to look at concussion patients (especially teenagers) with increased scrutiny to determine if they need to prepare for MS development. Researchers also say that parents should be especially wary about preventing head injuries in their children and teenagers since the brain is often developing at that time and concussion can lead to mental and emotional problems. They stress that parents should make sure their kids wear protective gear like helmets when riding bikes, and they also call on sports manufacturers to design gear that will protect children playing sports from head injuries.
What Are the Signs of Concussion?
If your child does get a concussion, it is imperative that they get treatment and see a doctor right away. So, with that being said, it is important to know the signs and symptoms of a concussion, as well as what to do if your child has one. Below are some of the signs typically found in a concussed child:
Pounding Headaches - One of the most obvious signs of concussions is the presence of a pounding headache for hours on end. These are normally more painful than typical headaches, so keep that in mind.
Dizziness - Being dizzy is another common sign of a concussion. This dizziness is usually stronger in intensity and over a longer period of time than normal (vomiting and nausea may recur as a result).
Balance or Vision Issues - Typically right after receiving a blow that could lead to a concussion, a person will have blurry vision and will have trouble standing or walking on their own accord.
Sensitivity to Light or Sound - Concussed persons tend to be highly sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds. If the concussion happens at a sporting event they will tend to seem in pain when hearing all of the noise and seeing the bright lights.
Sleep Troubles - Any change in someone's sleep schedule (also known as the circadian rhythm) could indicate a possible concussion. Insomnia is also sometimes present in concussed patients.
Trouble Thinking - Many concussion patients tend to have trouble focusing during school or their studies, and may have limited problem-solving ability.
Emotional Issues - Having sudden mood swings may indicate a concussion. In some rare cases, concussed patients have had bouts of crying that seem to not be caused by anything in particular.
All of the above symptoms suggest that you should get your child to see a doctor as soon as possible. In some extreme cases, a call for an ambulance may be necessary. If your child exhibits any of the following symptoms, it is important that you call your local emergency number right away:
Seizure - If your child starts shaking uncontrollably or seizing up (when they are not known to do this normally) this means that the concussion is likely very serious and needs to be treated as soon as possible.
Weakness in Limbs - A weakness in the limbs points to a major concussion and should be cause for concern. For example, majorly concussed patients may have trouble walking or getting up due to weakened legs.
Slurred Speech - Slurred speech is a definite sign that your child needs to go to the hospital. Slurred speech is of course when the letters being said blend together making it very hard to understand someone's speech.
Confusion - Significant confusion about who they are, where they are, who you are or anything about their surroundings means that a person is likely to have suffered a major concussion.
What to Do When Your Child Gets a Concussion
If your child exhibits any of the four symptoms listed above, call the ambulance right away. If they exhibit signs that aren't that severe, you should monitor their symptoms to see if they worsen over 24 or 48 hours. If they do, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If any of the following signs occur, you should take your child to a physician immediately:
- Severe or increased headaches
- Double vision
- Unequal pupils
- Unusual or increased drowsiness
- Bleeding/clear fluid from the ear or nose
- Projectile or repeated vomiting
- Unusual stiffness in the neck area
- Severe personality changes
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Numbness in the face or extremities
Other than monitoring them for signs, here a few tips you should follow:
- Do not let the child perform any strenuous activity or go back to playing sports. A second impact could be catastrophic on the brain. You should not let your child play sports again until they have been cleared by the physician.
- Do not use ibuprofen or aspirin for headaches during the first 48 hours of the concussion. Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) only.
- Encourage your child to get plenty of rest. Also make sure their diet is lighter than usual, as overeating can worsen some of the symptoms.
- Use ice packs on the head or neck to ease your child's headaches and pain.
- Make sure your child is sleeping in a cool, dark, and quiet room.
As long as you follow these steps and follow up with doctors and physicians, your child should likely be fine. For more information on multiple sclerosis, concussions, and other diseases, make sure to check out the rest of our articles.