August 30th, 2010
05:01 PM ET

MS activity may vary with seasons

In the spring and summer months, some people with multiple sclerosis  are at a two to three times greater risk for disease activity, according to research published Monday in the journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study, led by Dominik Meier, Ph.D. of Brigham and Women's Hospital, examined MRI screenings and other data taken from 1991 to 1993.  This was before the availability of current traditional therapies to modify the course of the disease.  44 people aged 25 to 52 living in Boston participated in the study.  They had MRIs weekly to monthly over the course of a year. The researchers also included weather information in their study.  MRIs are the primary tools used to monitor the disease progress, as they show the scarring, also called lesions.

"Not only were more lesions found during the spring and summer seasons, our study also found that warmer temperatures and solar radiation were linked to disease activity," said Meier.

Neurologist Dr. Anne Cross of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, wrote an accompanying editorial for the journal:  "This study implicates something going on in the environment, at least in the Boston area but probably many other places too, that is happening either in the spring or summer or just prior to that and somehow enhancing or allowing more disease activity in MS and if we could come up with what that factor(s) is/are, we might be able to alter the course of the disease."

Cross noted that this information could be helpful when researchers are designing future drug studies, as the seasons could affect the outcomes of the results if they are based on MRI scans.

"Anything that could help us understand what causes the disease to act up would be very welcomed information," she added.

Meier added the study has implications for how often MRIs are performed.

"If you look historically at MS, we see this as a chronic, slowly progressing disease that goes over decades. Yet, if you look at the MRI, you have things that change on a monthly or weekly basis," he said.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.1 million people worldwide have the disease.  It defines MS as a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks nerve fibers in the central nervous system.

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. JC

    I can't believe how behind the times these "researchers" are..when you are diagnosed with MS, you are aware that you react differently in warmer temps, especially in heat over 85 degrees.

    August 30, 2010 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SR

      I beg to differ...not everyone with MS is exactly the same. I was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago and I thrive in the heat, unlike a lot of MS patients I enjoy hot days, showers, and jacuzzis...I've found that for me the cold is my biggest foe. If my body temperature drops even 1 or 2 degrees my nervous system goes into shock and it becomes extremely hard to move any extremety of my body. I will have to say that although this study was conducted a decade ago it still shows promising information, oh and just because soemone "reacts differently" in warmer temps does NOT mean that they are having a neurological exacerbation resulting in a greater number of leasions of the brain and spine...the fact of the matter is MS is a hard disease to diagnose, is definitely hard to treat, and EVERYONE is different...

      August 30, 2010 at 19:42 | Report abuse |
  2. nicole

    could it be the masquito spray that may react. they do spray right before the summer time. maybe that has something to do with it.

    August 30, 2010 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Louis PuyaJr


    August 30, 2010 at 23:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Debbie

    Hmm, I love hot showers, sometimes it is the only way I can warm my cold feet. Most of my exacerbation have occured during the coldest winter months as well as the heat of the summer. I'll have to vote for spring and fall as my best seasons.
    (Symptoms for years, formally diagnosed two years ago.)

    All that aside, I have also found research that suggests MRI lesion load does not correlate with disability levels anyway. :-\


    August 31, 2010 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Robyn

      Debbi, I agree. My neurologist told me the same thing. The amount of lesions will change and doesn't necessarily determine activity. All this was said while I was fighting with the insurance company to cover my MRI. The insurance company said, you have a diagnosis, there is no purpose in the MRI.

      August 31, 2010 at 09:38 | Report abuse |
  5. D.R. Constable

    Has there been studies done on area of U.S.Like in WA. State around the Spokane area and why the MS rate is so much higer there???

    August 31, 2010 at 04:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lynn

      I wish I had the answer to why it is more prevalent there. I am from just southwest of Spokane and was there when Mt. St. Helens blew. We lived through the clean up of 3.5" of ash for months. I have heard that the Hanford Nuclear Plant may have some bearing, also. I moved away from that area later in 1980.

      August 31, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse |
  6. Annie

    Perhaps more Diet pop is consumed during the warmer months which aggravate the MS. Most diet pop contains Aspartame which has been clearly shown to cause MS. Do your own research here: http://www.mpwhi.com/new_report_at_neurology_conference.htm There are experiences of women diagnosed with MS including brain lesions who have recovered after quitting Aspartame. Aspartame poisoning is a real danger as it turns into formaldehyde in your body and causes neurological damage.

    August 31, 2010 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mr. Rumsfeld

      Are you implying i am a bad man? Just because i pushed Aspartame thru during the Reagan administration after knowing it causes brain tumors since the 1960's and i made millions of dollars in my connection to Searle (Now Monsanto). It was so bad in the 60's it got banned and i brought it back and put it in your soda pop, gum, candy and food. I am rich and so are my buddies in Big Pharma. Enjoy your soda pop!

      August 31, 2010 at 09:35 | Report abuse |
    • MS guy, not conspiracy guy

      Aspertame does NOT cause MS. Don't be an alarmist. And don't drag polictics into MS. SHeesh....

      You all are trying to apply anecdotal stories as if they were scientific fact. MS differs. Face it. Stop ARGUING.

      August 31, 2010 at 10:26 | Report abuse |
    • RM

      Wow.. that article is filled with so much misinformation it is frightening. Let me just say..I am a scientist and I work in the field of autoimmunity and...I have MS......excitotxins!?!?!? wow... you do realize there is no such thing.... not saying that aspartame is good for you, not saying it isn't bad for you..but that article would be just as valid had my 8 year old written it with crayons... Methanol being contained withing the aspartame molecule???? the very basics of biology and chemistry should tell anyone with ANY scientific acumen that this article is a fictitious attempt to manipulate the emotions of people..you know like Glenn Beck..

      August 31, 2010 at 10:40 | Report abuse |
  7. Jojo

    DR Constable, the implication of the WA state having one of the highest rates of MS, is lack of sunshine and correlating decrease in vitamin D. That is why here, we are all taking extra vitamin D especially during the winter months. You can read more at http://www.whyhere.org/

    August 31, 2010 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. paul

    "Studies" like these which are common knowledge to MS sufferers illustrate a big problem with research in this country. Despite decades of "research" and hundreds of millions of dollars spent, we still do not know what causes or triggers this disease, and they haven't a clue how to treat it. I consider the lack of progress on diseases like MS and Muscular dystrophy to be a national disgrace. It seems like there is either no will at the NIH to solve the puzzle of these diseases, or they are completely incompetent.

    August 31, 2010 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MS Fighter

      Or do we? Article from 1957.

      August 31, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • Deb


      August 31, 2010 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
  9. Joel

    Its the heat, stupid. My wife has MS and once it gets over 90 degrees, she starts to have real problems in the outdoors after only 10 min.

    August 31, 2010 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jon

    When my mother was alive and was living with MS, she insisted on having at the very least a fan on her as she slept during the coldest winter months. From what I've read more often than not MS patients prefer the cold weather to heat. But I can understand that the body can react differently with this disease. I can certainly understand the sentiment about the research being done though. One can only hope these funds can go towards better research and innovation.

    August 31, 2010 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Barry

    I have had SPMS for many years. I suffer badly in the heat but also am very sensitive to the cold. The reason for this for me (the issue with cold sensitivity) according to my MS neurologist is because many people with MS have a tendency to have high Tyroid TSH levels. This is more prevelent with people on Rebif (Interferon 1a) like myself. Sure enough, when I went to have the level checked it was well over 9 (Normal is .4-4.0 I've also heard about the Aspertame issue as well as the issue of mercury in our fillings causing MS, it's all a bunch of nonsense. My MS neurologist told me if these things were true he would be gladly out of business. Let's stick to reality.

    August 31, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sandy

    1.Stop with the initials/anagrams. It is Multiple Sclerosis and there is nothing to be ashamed about saying the words. 2.It is a medical condition, not a disease. We did not catch it from anything/one and we are not going to die from it. It is a condition for which we receive treatment and have to live with. 3.Different people react diffently to diferent environments. My sysmptoms are nearly non-existant in the heat. A case study nearly 20years old doesn't say anything to me now. 4."The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that 400,000 people in the U.S..." – that's the population of midtown Manhattan. Stop making us sound like an epidemic.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Kent

    Hmmm...they needed to do research to figure this one out? They could have just asked anyone of us.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Deb

    It affects every person differently. I was diagnosed 5 1/2 years ago and take Avonex weekly. I live in Chicago, so I experience cold winters and hot summers. A few years ago, I got an exacberation just from shoveling the snow off the driveway; my toes got numb from the shoveling and the tingling didn't stop until I got my IV meds from my doctor/hospital. Similarly, we have had a very hot summer this year, and I thankfully did not had any issues. I find that typically my exacberations are caused by too much negative stress.

    August 31, 2010 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Deborah

    Wow! The subject of multiple sclerosis (MS) always stirs up strong emotions, which is understandable. It's amazing how sensitive those of us dealing with this disease or medical condition can become. Of course, some of us may have always been the sensitive type. If individuals who have MS can't always agree, why do we think or expect the neurologists or researchers to agree on every aspect of MS? We each have our individual journey to walk and unfortunately, it's not always a cake walk!

    August 31, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Gracie

    For all MS suffers, I want to note that The Vascular Group in Albany, NY is doing studies on MS and are doing interventional treatments on patients with MS. If you're at all interested- you can contact 518-218-7909. The research they are now taking part of is truly ground breaking.

    August 31, 2010 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Gracie

    http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01089686?term=CCSVI&rank=1 <- THIS IS THE LINK IN REGARD TO THE CURRENT TRIAL BEING DONE IN ALBANY, NY

    August 31, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. CutTheCarb

    Perhaps it’s better to study the root cause instead of studying what causes the act ups. In this post http://bit.ly/92Z0Fy both the cause and a plan of treatment are given. VBR Karen

    August 31, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Jodi

    My neurologist specifically told me not to get over heated during excercise or other activities. He said raised body temperature tends to inflame the damaged nerves which could cause an attack. I find that if it's extremely hot outside (or get too hot working or something), I get light headed. I am newly diagnosed. My first attack was in October. Didn't notice too much in cold weather. He also said everyones different.

    August 31, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. DMG

    Spring and Fall are my best times of the year,too hot or too cold id bad for me and my MS.

    August 31, 2010 at 15:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Osmo

    Yes Gracie, you're the first one in this forum to show any awareness at all of what many, many MS victims and their friends and families have learned in the last year or two, including the terms Dr. Zamboni, CCSVI, liberation treatment, and jugular vein angioplasty–all closely related. This all appears to be a strong prospect as a 'miracle' cure for MS, and thousands of people have already accordingly been treated successfully for MS–many reporting being cured: viz., "no sign of neurological deficit remains." Others, although improving, still have problems, doubtlessly because of accumulated brain damage which may never heal and may be difficult for their brains to 'learn around'.
    But of course we now see a proliferation of articles like this, which pretend to be very professional, but ignore and deliberately work to indirectly dispute the CCSVI explanation for MS, thereby perpetuating the unproven status-quo 'auto-immune' theories about the ailment. Obviously there is huge money at stake in pharmaceutical 'treatments' for MS, as well as thousands of pointless careers in MS research being threatened by any actual cure. The MS Societies and the medical 'industries' of North America are fighting hard to protect themselves from the threat posed to them by this new development, while the real threat posed to hundreds of thousands of MS victims by their ailment/disease is revealed to be the least of the concerns of these so-called professionals.
    And the rare work being done in Albany, N.Y., which you mention, is, I believe, more than a trial, depending on how you define a trial. That clinic is in full-bore production of M.S. treatments by the 'Zamboni method', and most of them are successful. Naturally it only makes sense for them to keep records and follow up on their patients for statistics, etc., and I suppose that can be considered to make it a "trial". But when this treatment has already been done thousands of times in more progressive countries, and most of those treatments are successful, it's obviously pathetic for our medical drones to be demanding "proofs" and "clinical trials". What the world really needs now is reality, and full-scale scanning and vein angioplasty as appropriate for all MS victims for a start, and most likely other people with similar deformities or blockages, even if never diagnosed with MS or other specific diseases.

    August 31, 2010 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tulasidevi

    Heat and cold slow down neurotransmissions thus causing a temporary "exacerbation" of symptoms. Doesn't mean one is getting a real exacerbation, just that whatever is already there is getting a temporary magnification, and when the heat or cold is adjusted then the sx's disappear. Heat effects me more because if I go outside I can only take off so many clothes, where as in the outside cold I can put lots of warm clothes on and eat heating foods and move around more to keep warm. However, ms affects each person differently. Good luck and its good to be introspective enough to try to see the different lessons we are meant to learn thru whatever happens to us. Not this why me stuff. Everyone has their own particular burdens and lessons to learn, and we should help each other learn them, and graduate out of this material world. Otherwise its like flunking, and having to retake the course until we pass the test. Requires us helping each other to become more humble instead of vain and arrogant. Then learning becomes a lot more easier and quicker and joyful.

    September 1, 2010 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
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