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The “polar vortex” and multiple sclerosis

There are many discussing the weather in the United States lately (Monday brought yet more news of additional snow) and it doesn’t matter whether they have multiple sclerosis (MS) or not; but when it comes to the disease, weather is always on their minds.

Call it global warming, cooling, by today’s lingo “polar vortex” or simply the weather; it doesn’t matter a bit as it can affect an MS sufferer by acerbating their disease symptoms.

It is fairly well known these days that extreme heat will affect those with MS as it tends to enhance symptoms like fatigue, tremors, over-all body weakness, cognitive issues and numbness but what has taken many by surprise is how winter months will also cause problems for many.

Words like pseudoexacerbation, suffering a worsening of symptoms without having a “true” relapse, are used but when experiencing the symptom(s), you won’t find anyone with MS playing the semantic game when it comes to what they are going through.

For those affected with 2013’s and 2014’s extreme winter, this severe cold has found them experiencing a worsening of their symptoms too. Mobility issues, spasticity, depression, fatigue and the MS hug are all various concerns that have been identified for hundreds of thousands with MS.

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There are some ways to help ease the pain of winter months, especially winters the like of what we have seen lately:

  1. Make sure you are taking Vitamin D – this vitamin has been proven through various studies to play a fundamental role in the disease and it is recommended at 2,000 IUs (50 mcg) for adults and 1000 IUs (25 mcg) for children. It can be toxic at high doses but those recommended dosages can be taken without ill effects.
  2. Sunshine, as much as can be tolerated in the cold, is also advocated. Don’t overdo exercise outside, ever, regardless of the season of course, but some time out in the sunlight will help yield natural vitamin D and small *walks (if possible) is a good idea. *It is better in warmer climes of course, but being able to be outside for as long as can be tolerated can’t hurt.
  3. Buy a *hot rubber water bottle and slip into the foot of the bed 30 minutes before going to bed. Mobility issues, like the wooden feeling in the legs and extra aches and pains of walking, are increased in the morning after sleeping all night. Depending on how hot the water is when put in the bottle; it can last through most of the night. *Safer than electric blankets and pads.
  4. Use Vicks to help ease the pain in ankles by rubbing it on feet and ankles and covering with socks. It not only helps ease the pain but it is a home remedy for helping cut down coughing due to sinus problems and colds. Keeping feet (and hands) warm helps those with Raynaud's syndrome of which many with MS suffer from as well.
  5. Eat well and sleep with blinds or curtains open. The earlier we see the light of the day; the better our moods tend to be. This helps with trying to stay on a regular sleep schedule as well which is very important when it comes to those with this disease. Sleeping issues hinder thousands, but being able to see light when we open our eyes can help ease it. As far as eating healthy, constant ingestion of ‘carb-containing’ foods causes energy levels to decrease. Instead, load breakfasts, lunches and dinners with whole grains, proteins and vegetables and fruits.

Depression is such a major concern for those with MS and trying to stay mentally “fit” can also be seemingly beyond difficult to deal with.

Ideas like burning essential oils, listening to soothing music (like classic music and pieces by Debussy, Bach and Beethoven are just a few and can be found easily on You Tube), learning new things can help lift spirits as well and there are so many online courses that are freely available (Khan Academy, MOOCs and You Tube to name a few) and sticking to a daily routine as much as possible are just some of the wonderful thoughts shared by readers.

For more info: for those who live in Lima, Ohio, the Northwestern Ohio MS Chapter can be reached at: 401 Tomahawk Drive, Maumee, OH at (419) 897-7263. They are located approximately an hour and a half from Lima, Ohio and 45 minutes from Findlay, Ohio. For directions please click here at Google Maps

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Multiple Sclerosis Community Support:

  • MS World ~ “We've come together from around the world to help each other cope with the challenges of living with Multiple Sclerosis.”
  • Patients like Me ~ “Our Promise PatientsLikeMe is committed to putting patients first. We do this by providing a better, more effective way for you to share your real-world health experiences in order to help yourself, other patients like you and organizations that focus on your conditions.”
  • Med Help, Multiple Sclerosis ~ “Today, MedHelp empowers over 12 million people each month to take control over their health and find answers to their medical questions. MedHelp, a privately-funded company, has over 16 years of accumulated information from doctors and other patients across hundreds of conditions. In addition, MedHelp has long-standing partnerships with the top medical institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic, National Jewish, Partners Health, and Mount Sinai. MedHelp's audience, archives, and partnerships make it a unique health destination on the Internet.”

Sources:, Ann Koh and Lars Paulsson;, Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D.;;

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