The leaves are falling and taking the temperatures with them. Many will miss the hot, sunny days on the beach, while others long for the cooler weather ahead. But can the falling temperatures really have an impact on your neurological conditions? It turns out they can, and in different ways depending on the condition.
With peripheral neuropathy (PN), the cooler weather makes most patients’ symptoms worse. In neuropathies caused by a lack of blood flow to the nerves in your hands and feet, cold weather will constrict your blood vessels and result in less blood to your nerves. Less blood flow may mean more pain and numbness. If your symptoms get worse from the cold, make sure to wear an extra layer, always have a pair of socks, and keep your hands and feet moving to improve blood flow to them. Smoking may reduce blood flow to your hands and feet, making this problem worse.
There are some PN patients out there where the cold actually helps their symptoms. Those patients have succumbed to an injury to the nerves that help their hands and feet tolerate heat. These patients may actually have worsening of their neuropathy symptoms over the summer, with relief as the weather cools.
As many migraine patients have experienced, bright lights may be a trigger for a migraine or make an existing migraine worse. Therefore, it is no surprise that people with migraines seem to have more of them in the summer, when bright sunlight is more abundant. So while fall may mean less sunshine, it may also mean fewer headaches.
If you have multiple sclerosis (MS), your brain and spinal cord may be longing for the cooler weather. In fact, studies have shown that new MS lesions are two or three times as likely to occur in the spring and summer months. Warmer temperatures and radiation from the sun may be to blame. However, these numbers may not tell the whole story. MS seems to be more common the further you get from the equator. Low vitamin D levels from less sun exposure the further you get from the equator may make it more likely to develop MS. So while a lack of sunlight and a low Vitamin D level may make it more likely to develop MS, too much radiation from the sun and too high of temperatures may cause flare ups of existing MS.
Similarly to multiple sclerosis, if you have myasthenia gravis (MG) your body may prefer the cold. High temperatures, high humidity, and extreme sunlight have been found to interfere with the communication between your nerves and muscles, causing you to tire more easily if you have MG. However, extreme cold can also make your symptoms worse. So if you plan on venturing out into the extreme cold, consider an extra layer.
So while some may dread the coming cold weather, your nervous system may be thankful for it if you have MS, MG, migraines, or certain types of neuropathy. But too much cold and dark may also worsen your MS or MG, so if you do go out into the cold make sure to wear an extra layer and try to get some sunlight.
At Virginia Spine Institute, our unique belief is to treat our patients with the most comprehensive care possible. Our team will coordinate an individualized, comprehensive treatment plan for you with the goal of improving your quality of life.