Understanding and Managing Uhthoffs Phenomenon

The upsetting and confusing condition known as Uhthoffs Phenomenon is a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis and other demyelinating conditions. What can we do when understanding and managing Uhthoff’s Phenomenon.

Scot MS Heat Intolerance Uhthoff Phenomenon Heat Sensitivity

Uhthoff’s Phenomenon also goes by the names of Uhtoffs Sign, Uhthoffs Symptom and Uhthoffs Syndrome.

What is Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is considered to be an autoimmune disease that is 2 or 3 times more likely to affect women rather than men.

In its mildest form, most patients will not be aware of MS. However, it can cause a multitude of symptoms affecting mobility, vision and sensation.

MS is a demyelinating disease, which is to say, it attacks the myelin that surrounds the nerves of the central nervous system (CNS).

Multiple Sclerosis is the most common cause of disability in young adults.

MS is a life-long condition with no cure. But many of the symptoms are treatable with medication.

What is Uhthoffs Phenomenon

Heat Intolerance of Uthoff Phenomenon
Wilhelm Uhthoff

Uhthoff’s Phenomenon is so-called because it was first described by Wilhelm Uhthoff, a German professor of ophthalmology in 1890. He observed that in some people with optic neuritis, their condition worsened after they had been exercising.

Although Uhthoff himself didn’t make the connection, later research concluded that the rise in body temperature was the cause of vision impairment.

The precise actions of Uhthoff’s phenomenon are not fully understood. However, studies show that a rise in body temperature can slow or block the conduction of nerve signals in demyelinated nerves.

Avoid the Summer Sun

A couple of anecdotal examples spring to mind:

  1. In the early days of living with MS; I still had the energy to attempt some physical work and I decided, against my better judgement, that the garden needed weeding. It was a lovely warm late-spring day so I ventured out to the garden shed and set about tidying the flower border. I managed only 15 or 20 minutes before my vision started to become blurry. I had to retreat to the house and take a seat for half an hour. My vision cleared so, undaunted, I set about the weeding again. Again, I lasted about fifteen minutes before the eyesight failed.
  2. I always enjoy a hot, relaxing soak in the bath. I was aware that many MSers don?t share my pleasure because of the heat intolerance. But, I was lucky; or I thought I was! On one occasion, I had been enjoying my little pleasure and having completed my ablutions I rose to step out of the bath, I got as far as the bathroom mat, where I intended to towel myself dry, when my legs rebelled. I didn?t fall, I just gently sank to the floor and found I could not get back up. I could not even site up or crawl. So I lay, naked, on the bathroom floor for a full fifteen minutes when my legs showed signs of some activity. I managed to stand, very unsteadily, and hobble to my bedroom and collapse on the bed. I remained there for the next hour before I felt strong enough to venture downstairs.

Uhthoffs Awareness

Having spent many years conversing, online, with other MSers, it seems that many of them are more than familiar with Uhthoff’s Symptom, both by name and experience than I had been at the outset

I wish to digress, for a moment, from discussing this heat-related symptom and mention MS relapses or flares.

I am currently curating this Blog and migrating all of the content from an old Website. A fairly simple process you might think. But, the cognitive impairment of MS can, and does, present hurdles. Even the simplest of tasks can seem onerous when your brain isn’t in gear.

This is further exacerbated by the onset of yet another relapse or flare. In some respects, I have been fortunate. My relapses have been few and far between. However, when it happens, all normal activity ceases for the duration.

The point of including this digression here is that I feel especially brain-fogged today, as I have done for several days now. I suspect that I am in another relapse.

Inexplicably, it took several days of this brain-fogged existence, before it occurred to me that perhaps it was MS causing this sense of disconnection.

Furthermore, it had entirely escaped my attention that I had MS. How could I possibly forget that I suffered from Multiple Sclerosis? The answer is simple; my cognitive decline is more advanced than I am comfortable to admit. This apparent happy oblivion has been the reason for many of my health oversights.

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