Why the summer heat affects MS sufferers so much
The sweaty heat wave causes enormous health problems for numerous people. People with multiple sclerosis are particularly affected. Experts explain why this is so and what can be done about it.
Incurable disease of the central nervous system
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common inflammatory disease in the central nervous system. Despite intensive research, the disease is still considered incurable. But thanks to new drugs, MS is becoming more and more manageable. However, the high temperatures in summer often cause the complaints of those affected to worsen. Patients feel flabby, tired and light-headed, or complain of an increase in their visual disturbances or a deterioration in their motor skills.
MS patients react to heat with a pseudo-boost
Experts from the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the Center for Clinical Neurosciences at the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus explain in a message why the heat is so affecting for MS sufferers.
"This has to do with the consequences of multiple sclerosis as an inflammatory disease of the brain and spinal cord," says Prof. Dr. Tjalf Ziemssen, director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center.
"After the inflammation foci have healed, scars form in the area of the nerve fibers, which, when the body temperature rises, are less able to pass on the information and thus lead to the recurrence of complaints."
The MS patient therefore reacts to heat with a significant increase in already existing complaints, but this is not a disease spurt in the actual sense, but a so-called pseudo spurt, which is also described as the Uhthoff phenomenon.
Relieve cooling discomfort
The Uhthoff phenomenon refers to the temporary worsening of MS complaints when the body temperature rises, for example when the temperature rises or the ambient temperature rises, the report says.
According to the information, more than 80 percent of people with MS are affected. A temperature-related deterioration in the conductivity of damaged nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord is assumed to be the cause.
The phenomenon was first described by the German ophthalmologist Wilhelm Uhthoff (1853-1927). Prophylaxis consists in avoiding considerable physical exertion and in avoiding circumstances that raise the body temperature.
The complaints can also be limited by wearing cooling clothing such as cooling vests, cooling hoods and cooling socks. The alternative is then a simple bowl of cold water, into which feet and arms can be dipped.
It is also important for MS patients that they drink as much as possible to prevent loss of fluids, which can also make the symptoms worse. Water is the most suitable for this.
"Unfortunately, there are still many myths and rumors in the area of multiple sclerosis that restrict the patient," says Prof. Tjalf Ziemssen.
"For example, it is reported that MS patients cannot go to the sauna due to their sensitivity to heat."
As a general principle, this is not correct; many patients benefit from the sauna. (ad)