Uhthoff’s Phenomenon: Keeping Heat Related Symptoms at Bay

“Uhthoff’s what?” you may be asking yourself. Yes it is a funny name, but it has a more serious meaning. This common symptom of MS can be very troubling, especially when it happens abruptly. Uhthoff’s syndrome or phenomenon is described by clients as a dimming or reduction in vision, usually associated with exercise or overheating.

A 2011 study finds that approximately 60% of MS patients report heat sensitivity. Heat sensitivity is defined as a temporary worsening of MS symptoms when the weather becomes hot or humid. These symptoms are also common when running a fever, or participating in exercise activities.

While Uhthoff’s phenomenon relates solely to vision issues, in the Swedish study heat sensitivity was also discovered as a significant factor relating not only to fatigue but also to several other common MS symptoms such as pain, concentration difficulties, and urination urgency.

Heat sensitivity can cause a number of challenges to individuals with MS. One of the more challenging issues involves determining if the change in symptom is caused by MS disease activity, or other causes such as heat. This experience can be worrisome and cause individuals to fear that their MS is somehow getting worse, or possibly progressing.

So what can you do to combat the heat? Be mindful of how heat can impact your MS symptoms. Planning is the key to keeping heat related symptoms at rest; plan activities around cooler times of the day, either early in the morning or later in the evening.

What tips and tools have you developed to keep heat related symptoms at bay?



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  • Laura Weber says:

    I have made 2 ice vests, purchased Cool-Off wipes, use gel neckerchiefs, all to combat the Texas heat. I work as a home health Occupational Therapist and many of the homes I go into are simply too hot for me to function in. I can melt one ice vest in a single home. I keep an icechest in the car and wrap the icebricks that were used to ship my Avonex to make a cold lumbar roll in my hot car while I eagerly wait for the AC to catch up.

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