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Julie  Stachowiak, Ph.D.

Multiple Sclerosis


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Marijuana Pills and Spray May Help MS Symptoms

Monday March 31, 2014

With Colorado recently legalizing the use of medical marijuana, people love to ask me if I would use it (I think they really want to know if I am currently using it) for my MS symptoms. They are no doubt disappointed when I tell them that I would definitely use it if I had spasticity or other symptoms, but those aren't my biggest problems. Since my main symptoms are fatigue and cognitive dysfunction, I cannot imagine that pot would do anything but make those worse (but I probably wouldn't care about them as much if I did use some marijuana).

The American Academy of Neurology just released guidelines on the use of complementary and alternative medicine in multiple sclerosis and concluded that oral cannabis extracts, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and a cannabinoid mouth spray might be useful in relieving spasticity and pain. Read more about these guidelines here.

Have you tried any of the cannabis therapies? Share your experiences with these therapies in the comments section below.



Body Temperature and Multiple Sclerosis Fatigue

Monday March 31, 2014

I had no idea that resting body temperature could be different among different groups of people (who did not have an infection, that is). Turns out that it can.

In this study, researchers took the temperature and tested 40 healthy controls, 50 people with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) and 22 people with secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) for general fatigue, physical fatigue and cognitive fatigue. Here is what they found:

  • Body temperature (taken with an aural - in the ear - thermometer) was highest in people with RRMS at 37.04 degrees Celsius (98.67 degrees Fahrenheit). Normal temperature is 36.75 (98.15).
  • Controls had an average temperature of 36.83 (98.29) and people with SPMS had a temperature of 36.75 (98.15).
  • Warmer body temperature was associated with general fatigue and physical fatigue, but not cognitive fatigue.

While the differences here don't seem like very much, I have heard that a fraction of a degree in core temperature can hugely affect how a person with MS functions. Of course, this is preliminary data, but I know that on hot days, drinking a huge glass of water with lots of ice or taking a cold shower can give me a little more energy.

What about you? Do you know your average body temperature? What are some of your tricks for keeping cool? Let us know in the comments section below.

Read more:

"MS Guilt" and Summer

Sunday March 30, 2014

It's getting closer to high season for what I call "MS guilt." That is the guilt that many of us feel when we cannot do everything that we want to and we are convinced that we are disappointing everyone around us.

This feeling is especially prevalent for me during the summer months. I'm sure that I am much crabbier towards my family. I know that I can't cook as much and my housekeeping skills suffer, as well. The worst part, however, are the times that I am forced to tell my family that I can't do something fun with them because I am just not feeling well - usually because of the heat.

What about you? How do you handle this feeling? Share your stories and tips with us in the comments section below.

Read the full article: Do you have "MS Guilt?"

Have you tried biofeedback for MS?

Sunday March 30, 2014

I'm a huge fan of biofeedback. I cannot imagine how it could cause any harm. Instead, you are gaining control of your ability to manage stress and your response to it - just through your mind. No drugs required.

Have you tried biofeedback? Let us know how it worked for you in the comments section below.

Read the full article: Biofeedback for Multiple Sclerosis

What is the difference between MS pseudobulbar affect and euphoria?

Sunday March 30, 2014

These symptoms of multiple sclerosis are so interesting and strange. One, pseudobulbar affect, results in uncontrollable laughing or crying with no corresponding situation or emotions. This can be very distressing to the person experiencing the outbursts.

Euphoria, on the other hand, seems kind of great for the affected person, as it just results in being kind of happy. The strange thing about this is that the affected people are usually substantially disabled - a situation that most people could find pretty upsetting. In this case, it is usually the family members that are distressed.

I'm interested to know if any of you have experienced either of these symptoms. Share with us what they were like and what you did to cope in the comments section below. You might help someone else with your stories.

Read the full article: Pseudobulbar Affect and Euphoria

Do you panic in the sun with MS?

Sunday March 30, 2014

The hot weather is on the way. For the most part, I can be rational about the whole summer thing, using my common sense to stay out of the heat during the hottest part of the day.

An exception to this is if I find myself in direct sunlight, even for a short amount of time. You would think I was a vampire, the way that I lose all semblance of the ability to think clearly and calmly if a ray of afternoon sun touches my skin.

Read the full article: Multiple Sclerosis and Sun Exposure

What about you? Do you freak out in the sun? What have you found that helps you deal with this? Leave your stories and tips in the comments section below.


Lists to Help with MS Cognitive Issues

Friday February 28, 2014

For the past couple of days, it seems like everything I do has to be redone and that I end up zigzagging all over the place when trying to get my errands done, as I have forgotten things in stores right next to one another.

I just ran across this article that I wrote (while I was looking for something else, of course) about a solution to this problem. Every so often, I go back to basics and make a very detailed list of all the tiny steps in my day. I feel efficient and competent when I do everything in a logical order and this helps to reset me. Maybe a list like this could help you during some of your more frustrating times.

Read the full article: Use a Checklist for MS Cognitive Dysfunction

What about you? What helps you function better during days when your mind isn't its sharpest? Leave any tips in the comments section below.

Do Allergies Make MS Symptoms Feel Worse?

Friday February 28, 2014

There has been some speculation that allergies could trigger multiple sclerosis. After all, allergies are an immune response to something in the environment and MS is an inflammatory response to a person's immune system attacking itself. However, this has been pretty much disproven, a recent study showing no link between allergies and the onset of MS.

What I am more interested in, however, is whether you feel worse, MS-wise, when you have allergies. I am convinced that I do - I know that I feel more fatigued when I am wheezing and puffy with hay fever. I also am pretty sure that I feel the numbness and cognitive dysfunction more acutely when I have an allergic reaction to something.

I'd like to hear from you. Do you think allergies make your MS symptoms feel worse? In what way? What have you found that helps? Leave your stories and tips in the comments section below.

Is it an MS relapse or not?

Friday February 28, 2014

Most of us with relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) know the feeling of a new tingle or worsening limp, as well as the mini-panic that may accompany these symptoms as the fear that it is a relapse descends upon us.

I've pulled together some articles that I wrote that discuss what relapses are, what they aren't and what to do about them:

Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea May Worsen MS Fatigue

Friday February 28, 2014

A recent study at the University of Michigan revealed that a large percentage of people with MS may also have sleep apnea.

A screening questionnaire for sleep apnea was given to 195 people with MS. An astounding 56% of respondents gave responses which indicated that they were at high risk of sleep apnea. Only 21% of the people questioned had received a diagnosis of sleep apnea, meaning that it seems that there is a large number of people with MS with possible sleep apnea who have not been diagnosed.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing for short periods during the night. This can happen many (even hundreds) of times during the same night. Undiagnosed sleep apnea can greatly contribute to MS fatigue, as well as other chronic problems.

Sleep apnea is fairly easily diagnosed and treated. If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, including snoring or choking/gasping during sleep, visit your doctor to determine if you have may have sleep apnea. After all, the last thing any of us need is more fatigue, especially if it can be treated.

What about you? Have you been diagnosed with sleep apnea? What did you do to address it? What treatment was prescribed? Leave your comments in the comments section below.

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