More MS news articles for June 2001

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Needs Donations of Used Air Conditioners To Help Those with MS

Dateline:  June 21,  2001

The National MS Society is requesting donations of used air conditioners in good working order to help hundreds of area residents with MS who need them to beat the heat this summer. Units can be any size or BTU, and the contribution may be used as a tax deduction. For more information, please call Barbara Marriott at the Society at 1-800-548-4611.

Heat Worsens MS Symptoms

According to Pete Kennedy, the Greater Delaware Valley Chapter's community program director, "Heat worsens MS symptoms for many people with the disease, making it difficult for them to accomplish the tasks of everyday living. Just a small change in the body's core temperature can produce dramatic changes for those with MS, including an intensification in symptoms such as fatigue, spasticity, visual and cognitive impairment and more." Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include blurred vision and or blindness, disabling fatigue, numbness and tingling sensations, bowel and bladder difficulties and even paralysis.

Why Does The Temperature Effect Exist in MS?

Dr. Stephen Waxman, chairman of neurology at Yale University School of Medicine explains the condition this way, " In the case of nerve fibers, the molecules that produce the electrical impulses move more rapidly as a person's temperature rises." The part of the nerve fiber most affected by temperature increases are the sodium channels, specialized gaps in the nerve fiber membrane. They permit the passage of sodium ions, atoms of sodium with a positive electrical charge across the nerve fiber membrane.

Sodium ions are the key players in the transmission of impulses along the nerves. Their flow is the nerve's electric current. When the temperature goes up, sodium channels open and close more rapidly. Transmissions speed up, but the more rapid opening and closing of the channels permits a smaller number of sodium ions to go through. Thus the current drops.

"Nerve fibers generate between five and six times more current than they need to propel impulses," Waxman explains. "A safety factor of five or six keeps them transmitting effectively even when a person's temperature rises. However, some of the nerve fibers of the person with MS have been partly demyelinated, and in a demyelinated fiber, the safety factor is lower." If it drops to two, or even one, anything that further lowers the amount of current may cause the fiber to stop conducting.

For more information about the chapter's air conditioner donor program and other tips on how those with MS can beat the heat, please call the Resource Center at 1-800-548-4611.