How Winter Can Affect MS

For most of you, there is one certainty when it comes to winter and MS: the colder weather and gray days have an effect on you. But how the weather affects you is a toss-up.

We reached out on the MultipleSclerosis.net Facebook page to ask: “Do the darker, gray days of late fall and winter impact your emotional symptoms?”

In the community, 925 members voted. An overwhelming majority—77% of you— stated that you are impacted by the cold weather. But, for some, the cold weather brings relief from symptoms. For others, the short days of winter bring on depression. Still others say that the cold makes their MS worse.

This poll is just one more bit of proof showing that this one disease affects the community in so many different ways. There are similarities, of course, in how you’re affected. Here are some of those similarities.

“Winter months are my time of year.”

For some of you, the colder months are a relief from summer and the effects that heat brings. Heat and humidity tend to be the bigger MS triggers, so it makes sense that the colder, crisper air of winter is a reprieve for most in the community.

“I am so immensely bucked up to have the cooler days so that I can actually walk outside that I’m in a constant state of pleasure and happiness.”

“Winter months are my time of year. I HATE the long, light, hot days of summer. The colder, shorter, darker, rainy days of winter months give me more energy. I just feel better.”

“I feel alive! Summer is horrible for me. I wait the entire time for the grey, cold days of winter!”

“I’m very sensitive to light deprivation.”

Depression is one of the most common symptoms of MS, sometimes attributed to the inflammation linked to all autoimmune disorders. Because it is so common among those with MS, it’s worth bringing awareness to how the short days of winter, with their limited light, are affecting you. If you are feeling down, there are many options available, including light therapy lamps for depression. Or, you could also try to make an effort to spend at least 30 minutes outside in the daylight, if your symptoms allow.

“Wow, I didn’t know this was a thing! I’ve been saying, “I don’t like this time change.” The sunshine is my happiness!”

“I’m very sensitive to light deprivation and depression, so, yes, winter is even worse on my depression.”

“Winter gray days cause more pain.”

Winter does not bring relief for everyone. This can be one of the most frustrating parts of the disease: That heat and cold, extreme or otherwise, can make symptoms worse and cause flare-ups. Thankfully, many of you said that you’re affected by either heat or cold, but not both, so at least that’s some consolation for whom that’s true.

“Winter gray days cause more pain and relapses for me.”

“Cold days do affect my symptoms more.”

“I’m indifferent.”

Some of you in the community are fortunate in that your symptoms aren’t bothered too much by the seasons or the weather—and you appreciate that gift. There are others who may struggle with the season changes, but see the benefit of getting out there and doing it anyway.

“I think you have to get outside in the winter, MS or not. For me, forcing myself to get out helps my mood. I have more pain in the winter though.”

“Nope, lifelong Seattle resident. The rain, fog and wet have never bothered me. Just wear the right gear.”

“I’m indifferent.”

We want to say thank you to those in the community who voted and shared about their experiences with MS. There would be no community without you, so thank you.

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