Living with MS or Multiple Sclerosis could be painful; and when it is winter, your condition becomes more terrible. Yes, winters can be difficult for people with arthritis. Let us read further to know how cold temperature affects people with MS and also know about how to prepare for winter with MS.
How Cold Temperature Affect People With MS?
Cold temperatures in winter can come as a shock to our bodies, especially if someone has MS or multiple sclerosis. Cold temperatures can make the symptoms of MS worse and make us uncomfortable. It might be harder for someone with MS to move their limbs during winters. One with MS might have more muscle spasms than usual and muscles might feel tighter during winters.
MS is more common in areas with cold climates, and Canadians and Northern Europeans suffer from MS more because of the cold-climate in their regions.(1) Multiple sclerosis is more common among people who are descended from Northern European backgrounds. It is believed that there are genetic and environmental components for this specific trend.
Doctors are not sure why cold temperatures worsen the symptoms of MS. However, they think that the condition can alter the way one feels the changes in temperature. Heat, maybe from the weather, a hot shower, or exercise, has been associated with blurred vision and a temporary worsening of MS symptoms.
Though heat sensitivity is more commonly reported, about 20% of people with MS are known to experience worsening of their symptoms because of the cold temperatures.(2) A temperature drop can result in temporary problems with mobility, cognition, vision, and balance, and might result in burning, numbness, or tingling sensations in the body’s extremities. It is generally believed that this occurs because cold affects the speed of messages traveling along nerves that are already damaged because of MS. However, it is also suggested that cold sensitivity in MS could happen because of an MS lesion in the part of the brain that affects your body temperature.
So, cold temperatures can alter nerve and muscle activity and during winters people with MS might experience stiffness, cramping, spasticity, and tightness of their nerves and muscles. It might be really painful and limit the usual movements in patients with MS. It can worsen the MS hug, which is basically a gripping feeling that one might feel around their torso.(3)
NOTE: Cold temperatures can prevent or ease symptoms of MS in people who experience Uhtoff’s phenomenon( or the worsening of neurological symptoms) because of an increased body temperature. However, for many others, being cold can impact their muscle and nerve activity, thus resulting in pain and mobility changes.(4)
Usually, changes in symptoms of MS during winter are for a short time and when you follow some special tips and prepare yourself for the cold weather, you can help yourself cope-up with the condition during winter.
How To Prepare For Winter With MS?
If you have MS and experience your symptoms getting worse during winter, then you should prepare for winter. Below are some ways you can prepare for winters with MS.
Dress In Layers:
This is something that you need to keep in mind. Always try to keep yourself warm. Dress in layers, that would help you stay warm during winters. It is a good idea to put on hats, thick socks, or lined boots when you feel extremely cold during winters. This would keep heat from escaping through the feet and head.
Keep Your Hands And Feet Warm:
Doctors believe that Multiple sclerosis can cause blood vessels in your feet and hands to over-react to cold temperatures. If you suffer from MS, you might also be at risk of another condition called Raynaud’s phenomenon when your fingers and toes lose heat. They turn from white to red or blue as the blood starts flowing again. You might experience pain, numbness, or like someone is sticking you with needles and pins.
So, you should protect your hands and feet from the effects of the cold. This can be done by wearing hand warmers or by using a heating pad. But make sure you are not placing the heating pad directly on the skin, as it can cause blisters or burns.
Try To Get Moving:
If you have MS, there might be times when you won’t be able to move around easily. But when you can, try to get moving by doing some moderate physical activity, such as, stretching or walking. This will help you burn energy and help you warm up.
Warm Your Inside:
You should warm your inside. The easiest way of doing this is to eat hot meals, such as soup. You can also try to sip hot beverages like coffee or tea.
Get Some Sunshine:
You should get enough of sunshine during cold winter days. Move out of your house and soak up some sun rays. This would help you to warm-up and also help your body make some much-needed Vitamin D. Apart from this, sunshine would also help enhance your mood.
You might require taking medication for your condition. If you experience cold-induced pain or motor limitations that might be interfering with your ability to function, you must talk to your doctor, who might prescribe you certain pain medication or muscle relaxant during the winter days when you experience your symptoms of MS getting worse. You can take these prescribed medications every day for preventing cramping and associated pain or can take them as required when you feel the pain is coming on.
One of the best ways to support a loved one with MS in the winter is to simply be there for them. Sometimes people with MS cannot help themselves alone during winter to keep themselves away from their symptoms getting worse. So, you should simply try to offer them your help and support them during their challenging times. This would help them make their things a little easier with MS even during winters.
If you are someone with MS or know someone with MS who might be experiencing trouble during winters, try and prepare well for the cold temperatures and talk to your doctor for any expert advice.
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