Daily life with MS: Intensified Effects

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In case you didn’t catch on with my previous posts: life with Multiple Sclerosis is life with
constant challenge and adaptation. Living with MS, especially Relapsing-Remitting MS,
isn’t always a daily struggle but sometimes that makes the struggles even harder to deal
with when they do come. Being in remission, at least for me, doesn’t mean living with
no symptoms at all but they usually are only mild. Fluctuations in weather, stress, and
other intense environmental factors add to the severity and occurrence of these
everyday symptoms.”

 

Remission. That’s a loaded word with MS because like I said, you’re never 100% free
of the condition and effects. I know I was in remission previously and am right now because I’m not experiencing any severely debilitating or new symptoms and haven’t developed any new lesions. My daily reminder that I have MS comes from the effects of the disease itself and the permanent nerve damage the lesions have caused.

• My thighs tingle when I tilt my head down.
• My feet are often cold.
• I experience extreme discomfort in my legs almost nightly

I have found various ways to deal with these daily reminders but under more severe
conditions, like hot or cold weather and stress, I experience other “regular” symptoms
that arise. Some of these symptoms are even considered normal for the average
person under such conditions but they are intensified by MS.

Hot Weather

sun resized 600I don’t know a single MS patient who doesn’t feel the downfalls of the summer heat. Preparing for maximum comfort in the summer time is crucial for life with MS. When exposed to the heat and intense sun I experience extreme fatigue, feel generally weak, and even have trouble with my memory. Since my MS diagnosis I’ve also been diagnosed with Ulnar Neuropathy, which effects one of the main nerves in my arm and causes numbness and tingling in my hand. In the heat I have noticed that this occurs more often and it takes longer for normal sensation to return. I deal with these effects by trying to stay in the cool indoors during the summer months and finding ways to keep cool
when heat exposure is inevitable. If I do feel myself getting overheated I try to quickly lower my body temperature with things like a cold drink or wet towel to my face. Summer survival for me is all about listening to my body and realizing when enough is enough.

Cold Weather

thermometerCold weather can be just as painful as hot weather with MS. Sometimes it literally is more painful. Just like I experience symptoms when I get overheated, I’ve noticed symptoms when I let my body get too cold. Our body’s natural reaction to the cold is chattering teeth and shivering limbs. My body has that same reaction but more intense than most. When my teeth chatter my jaw eventually begins to feel tight and locked and shivering limbs quickly begin to feel arthritic and sore. When I recently discussed all of this with my neurologist he told me that we can’t always blame everything on MS and he is actually going to do a nerve test and MRI soon to explore other possibilities. I will let you know how that all turns out but in the meantime my best explanation is MS and my best solution is to try and stay warm and bundle up accordingly for the weather and situation.

 

 

Stress

Stress is a tricky monster to battle. No matter how hard you try not to stress it has the habit of pulling a sneak ninja attack on you. Even with the best management techniques in place stress can get the best of all of us. When I’m stressed my body gets fatigued faster and I experience small nerve twitches in my arms and legs. I also feel cognitive effects of stress like trouble focusing on tasks and getting tongue tied when I speak. Stress can have devastating effects on MS so I’ve learned to really listen to my body when I feel it and take the time to relax when I am wound up. I try to keep a go with the flow attitude to avoid stress but for those times it sneaks up on me I remember to breathe through it. A conscious shift and change in your mood or attitude is the best cure for stress. I have found my older brother to be the perfect person to turn to for help with an attitude adjustment. His technique for shifting my mood is to “hug the grumpy out” of me. It sounds silly and inane but my big brother really is on to something here. It is true that depending on my original state it can agitate me more initially but you better believe that by the time he releases me from his grip I’m smiling and usually laughing at myself for it!

describe the imageMy amazing big brother and I de-stressing together

Daily life with MS can be hard to navigate and severe circumstances don’t make it any
easier. The best advice I can give for any situation is to take the time to slow down,
assess what your body is telling you, and provide for what it needs. Knowing how your
body reacts under such conditions is key to figuring out the best way to cope and
adapt for your health and comfort. If you are aware of the effects and how to soothe or
avoid them you can be better prepared for living an easier life with MS.

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