While heat sensitivity in people with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been widely studied, the question of how cold weather affects patients still looms large. It was back in 1890 when optical issues (a common issue associated with MS) were linked to a rise in body temperature. More than a century later, MS patients still struggle to stay cool in the summer. As cooler weather approaches, however, the impending chill presents its own set of challenges.
Of course, winter introduces health issues even in people who aren’t affected by MS. Shorter days and increased darkness impact sleep patterns, which can ultimately lead to fatigue. Seasonal depression is also a common issue that emerges once the winter months descend.
Unfortunately, it appears that cold weather exacerbates MS symptoms. Specifically, pain, mobility challenges, fatigue, and depression seem to worsen. For one, the nerve damage caused by MS may be impacted by the winter weather, leading to spasticity and stiffness. Icy surfaces can also increase the risk of falls, making mobility challenges even more of a concern.
The “MS hug,” a feeling of pressure around the torso, becomes more pronounced for many patients in colder temperatures. Numbness and tingling may also worsen. Patients who experience Reynaud’s phenomenon, in which the blood vessels in the extremities narrow and cause discomfort, also report increased intensity in the winter.
Although there is still limited research on how cold weather impacts MS and why patients can still take certain measures to control symptoms throughout the winter months. Dressing in plenty of warm layers, eating warm foods, minimizing trips outdoors, and maintaining a moderate indoor temperature to reduce the shock when you do have to trek outside may help.
You might also consider discussing a supplement regimen with your specialist. Vitamin D levels often drop with decreased exposure to sunlight, so taking a daily vitamin could help to boost overall health and provide some relief for cold-related MS symptoms. Call a Stemedix Care Coordinator at 800-531-0831 and learn how our practitioner-grade supplements through Metagenics may help you and receive 10% off your first order!