Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Heat & Weakness...and Let It Go Already!

I have driven my car for too many summers now without air conditioning. I never planned on keeping it as long as I have, and should have put the money into it when it gave out. This wouldn't be such a problem if I wasn't in and out of my car several times a day (and there are only so many shady parking spots). It also probably wouldn't be such a problem if I didn't have Multiple Sclerosis.

My MS is pretty manageable. I work a very hectic job in social services, and also do freelance writing and photography. Most people are shocked when they find out I have MS. They have no idea.

When the humidity and heat goes way up, however, the regular problems I have from time to time become much more frequent and much less manageable. After melting in the heat all day, I often come home and literally collapse. My eyes are blurry, my legs feel weak, my head is fuzzy - and I often have what feels like the start of a migraine.

Put in a better way, Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D.
, describes it quite well on her blog. It's that anxious feeling that overwhelms you when the heat starts going up:

"For many of us with multiple sclerosis (MS), summer fills us with anxiety. Hot weather means MS symptoms and, well, suffering.

Heat intolerance in MS shows up as a "pseudoexacerbation" -- the experience of having symptoms appear or worsen due to heat exposure. This is different than a true relapse. In the case of a pseudoexacerbation, when the body’s temperature returns to normal, these symptoms disappear. No damage, such as inflammation, demyelination or new lesions, has been done during these pseudoexacerbations.

Heat intolerance is felt as increased symptoms, such as:
  • Decreased cognitive function
  • Numbness in the extremities
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision, known as Uhthoff’s sign
  • Tremor
  • Weakness

Really, any MS symptoms can be much worse in the heat. Sometimes, symptoms appear that we might not have felt before, which is the result of a lesion in a corresponding area of the brain or spinal cord that was slight enough that it did not cause a relapse or symptoms dramatic enough to notice."

So, yes heat makes MS worse. And, yes there is an emotional attachment to my little sports car. It took me across country packed to the roof with necessities while the rest of my belongings sat in storage. It had the radiator stolen out of it (a whole other story), it has gotten me through so many things...and it's still a very cool looking car. When I bought it is had 31,000 miles on it. It now has almost 191,000.

But, attachment or not, it's time. It's cute, it's fun, it handles great in the snow. It will probably go another 100,000 miles easily. But, it isn't worth putting the money into it to fix the air.

So cool or not, it's just too hot.