With MS, a hot flash may not be a hot flash at all.
I turned into a hottie yesterday, right in the middle of the center aisle of a most proper, button-ed down church, where I was a guest. The formal service had ended, and I was visiting with a few folks before strolling to the door.
Then it happened. My face started to sweat. My hair matted to my forehead. I started to feel weak and fumbly (Is that even a word?), while the all-too-familiar vertigo tried to knock me off my feet.
As the multiple sclerosis MonSter roared with delight at my misery, I did my darndest to focus on the sweet lady speaking to me. I’m sorry to admit I can’t recall most of what she said.
After a few moments, I excused myself and made my way to the exit for some fresh air. Soon, I recovered. I felt the delicious chill of relief.
MS can make one a hottie, but not in the way most people think.
It’s not sultry or sexy. It’s just steamy and sweaty. And shaky.
The first time this happened to me, I was pretty unsettled. I didn’t understand it. So it seemed scary. Eventually, I learned that this is a common predicament for people with MS.
Overheating comes easily to the MSer. And it has nothing to do with the weather or the temperature in the building.
The personal meteorological attack can happen fast. One minute the MSer seems perfectly fine. But all of a sudden, her forehead is beading up. His neck is sweating. She’s tugging at the collar of her shirt. He’s shrugging out of his jacket. It’s almost a panicky thing.
Then it’s over. And the now-clammy MSer is reaching for a coat or a blanket.
Weird hot and cold shifts are not unusual with MS.
MSers can run hot and cold without warning.
It’s not overeating. It’s not a thyroid thing. It’s not a blood sugar drop. It’s not overexertion. It’s not premenstrual syndrome or menopause. It’s not a panic attack. It’s not even a heart attack, although it can surely feel like one when it hits.
It’s as if MS messes with a person’s internal thermostat. Cold isn’t always cold, and hot isn’t always hot. The signals are confused. The wires are crossed (or more accurately, demyelinated).
The demyelination that marks MS can cause disruption to nerve signals, essentially confounding the MSer’s perception of hot and cold. We can be overheated or chilled when there seems no logical reason for feeling that way.
This crazy hot-cold shifting happens to me a lot!
I know what hot flashes are. I lived through that entire life season. This is something else.
It’s called a paroxysm. And it’s real.
What’s a paroxysm? It’s a sudden attack that increases a disease’s intensity. Usually, MS paroxysmal symptoms appear intermittently (without rhythm or regularity). But they can be unnerving, embarrassing, and uncomfortable.
The good news is that most paroxysms don’t last long.
Vintage image - public domain