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Why don't some teens with multiple sclerosis (MS) take their medication?

Experts think the rate of adherence to medical treatment is about 50% in children and teens with chronic illness, including multiple sclerosis (MS). There are many reasons children and teens don't always follow their treatment plans. These include their developmental state and sense of immortality, and not being able to fully understand the risks of their actions.

In the teen years, peers takes on greater importance, which can cause tension between the teen, and their family and medical team. Body image also becomes more important in the teen years. So sticking with treatments that cause physical changes, such as weight gain from corticosteroids (taken for MS relapses), may be a challenge. Some kids say they've hidden their relapse symptoms to avoid treatment or to protect their parents from worry.

For kids with any chronic illness, adherence is related to:
  • Motivation
  • A sense of support from family, peers and care providers
  • Education about treatment
  • Worries about current or future problems
Treatment adherence is best when children are involved in the decision-making process at an age-appropriate level. It is also important to know that treatment goals may change over time.

In the past, treatment for pediatric MS was limited to injections. Studies of adherence in pediatric MS are limited, but adherence appears to decrease over time. About 50% of youth stopped treatment within two years. Experts hope this will improve as better treatment options become available.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.