As we’re soon to be hitting the near 100s this upcoming week on the East Coast; I felt this would be the time to discuss heat and multiple sclerosis.
“Studies report that about 60 to 80% of people diagnosed with MS show excessive sensitivity to heat. People with this neurological disorder experience a temporary exacerbation of their existing symptoms and also new disturbing symptoms when they are exposed to elevated temperatures. They are sensitive to even a slight increase in their core body temperature (0.25°C to 0.5°C) that may be due to physical exercise or a warmer environment.”. (Wlassoff, 2014).
What happens when exposed to extreme temperatures:
- Fatigue is a common symptom and it is seen in nearly 70% of people with MS. Premature fatigue occurs in people with MS when they are exposed to even a slight increase in temperature. Weakness, especially affecting the limbs is also a symptom that is perceived during or aggravated by a temperature rise.
- Central pain is another common symptom that worsens with an increase in temperature. Studies propose that the reason behind this may be the damage caused to the thalamus and the spinothalamic-cortical pathways leading to thermoregulatory dysfunction. Numbness is another symptom that worsens with rising core body temperature.
- Cognitive functions in MS patients are also sensitive to heat. Memory problems, judgment difficulties, concentration difficulties and problems with other cognitive skills like language comprehension are more pronounced with the increase in body temperature. A recent study pointed out that people with MS demonstrated worsening of cognitive functions in warmer days.