World Multiple Sclerosis Day 2019
May 30th is World MS Day, and the theme for 2019 is “visibility” and raising awareness of the invisible symptoms of MS and its unseen impact on quality of life. The day aims to challenge common misconceptions about MS and help people understand how to provide the right support. We wrote this blog about MS and some of the invisible symptoms that individuals experience. Often, MS symptoms can become temporarily more severe because of overheating. These issues can be really challenging and we want to be a part of a conversation where people are empowered to share their experiences.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects your brain and spinal cord. With MS, the coating that protects your nerves (myelin) is damaged, causing a range of symptoms like blurred vision and problems with how we move, think and feel.
What are some of the invisible symptoms of MS?
Let’s talk about Temperature Sensitivity
Temperature sensitivity has multiple causes. Extreme heat or cold may affect the speed at which nerve impulses can travel along your nerves. Alternatively, MS may have caused a lesion in the part of the brain that controls or responds to body temperature. Your brain may not trigger sweating or shivering responses that keep your body at the best temperature for comfort.
Heat intolerance is a common issue for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Not only does this involve heat sensitivity, but heat can also make MS symptoms worse. Between 60% and 80% of people with MS find that heat can cause their symptoms to worsen. Symptoms can include fatigue, blurred vision, loss of balance, or a worsening of cognitive symptoms such as concentration or memory.
One of the challenges with heat intolerance is that summer weather, excessive central heating, exercise, having a fever, or other activities can all raise your core body temperature. You might find environments with lots of people crowded together, uncomfortable. If you have MS, just a small rise in core body temperature can make a difference in how you feel.
The best way to avoid a temporary increase in MS symptoms because of over-heating is to prevent over-heating in the first place. However, if you do feel too warm, it’s essential to take steps to cool yourself down. Some of the ways to stay cool include:
- Having regular cold drinks or suck an ice cube
- Spraying your face and wrists with a plant mister filled with iced tap water
- A floor or desk fan can help to keep the temperature down and the air flowing in a room. A hand-held fan can be useful when moving around.
- If you use a wheelchair, wheelAIR helps prevent overheating by keeping you cool with a constant flow of isothermal air, taking away that excess heat and moisture, reducing those risks of infection and irritation associated with humidity and temperature. Additionally, it is designed to reduce exhaustion, pain and discomfort caused by over-heating or over- sweating.
As an Advanced Occupational Therapist with over 17 year years of experience, Susie says, “I want to enable someone to fulfil their life activities and get busy living. WheelAIR helps them feel comfortable to live their daily life without interruption, without worry or anxiety about what their body is going to do that day, that’s a real bonus for their well-being and physical health.”
Want to find out more? MS Trust has links to recommended products that can be helpful for temperature regulation here.