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New study reveals troubling reason behind worsening multiple sclerosis symptoms: 'I've been hearing from a lot of patients'

The best option is to pay attention to hot weather alerts and take steps to cool down.

Multiple sclerosis symptoms worse

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As the weather gets hotter around the world, multiple sclerosis patients are experiencing more severe symptoms, Yale Climate Connections (YCC) reports.

What's happening?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a medical condition in which the body's immune system attacks the nervous system, including tissues of the brain, spinal cord, and the nerves connected to the eyes.

Since the nervous system controls the whole body, MS can cause a range of symptoms. Blurred vision, double vision, muscle weakness, fatigue, problems with brain function, tingling and numbness, and loss of bladder control are all possibilities.

Heat is a known issue for MS patients. While higher temperatures don't cause or speed up nerve damage, they do make it more difficult for nerves that have already been damaged to function, YCC explains

This is the case whenever an MS patient experiences a higher body temperature, whether that's due to fever, a hot bath, exercise, or warmer weather.

Rising temperatures around the globe mean that MS patients experience more hot days on average. 

Why are MS experts concerned?

While an MS patient's physical condition stays the same in the heat, all the outward symptoms of the disease get worse. 

Patients may have a "flare-up" that causes more vision problems, more numbness, difficulty walking or controlling their limbs, and difficulty thinking. It's an uncomfortable, frightening, and sometimes debilitating experience.

After a recent heat wave, MS specialist Dr. Barbara Giesser told YCC, "I've been hearing from a lot of patients, you know: 'My feet are numb and tingly. I've had it before but it's worse this week, or my balance is a little worse this week, or I'm just feeling more fatigued this week.'"

Many who experience MS are already dealing with symptoms caused by their condition. During extreme weather, they're at risk of physical harm due to a flare-up, lack of access to care, and overwhelmed emergency services.

What can be done?

For MS patients, the best option is to pay attention to hot weather alerts and take steps to cool down

Those experiencing a flare-up due to heat can rest assured that their symptoms will ease when they cool down, but should still stay in contact with their doctors, YCC recommends.

For the rest of the world, the best way to help is to reduce air pollution to bring the world's temperature down. Switch from gas-powered appliances to electric when possible, minimize waste, and support policy changes that cut back on heat-trapping gases.

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