How to Distinquish Between a Real MS Flare-Up and a Pseudo Flare-Up
Did you know that people with MS must also contend with pseudo flare-ups? Well we do. As if getting use to the real thing isn't enough pressure to deal with, we quickly find out we must also contend with the false-positive nature of MS.
If you are new to MS, I'm sorry I even have to bring this up. You have enough on your plate already that's for sure, but you do need to understand this part of MS, if you hope to attain a fluidity in your management of a disease which is always changing.
So, the good news is, under certain circumstances your MS can flare-up and before you know it, calm right back down again. It doesn't mean you are progressing or that you have to be unduly concerned. It just means you had or are having a pseudo flare-up. I say it is good news because unlike a real flare-up, a pseudo flare-up clears up quickly, as soon as the problem causing the flare-up is handled. Also, unlike a real flare-up, no central nervous system damage is taking place. That constitutes good news for a MSer!
What is a Pseduo Flare-Up?
Make no mistake, a pseudo flare-up feels just like the real thing. That's because it is the real thing. Some mistakenly refer to it as a fake flare-up, implying you are imagining things, or feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, which is making you a drama queen or king. Nothing is farther from the truth. If you have the perfect storm of events, you WILL have a pseudo flare. If you want the flare to stop, you have to get to the root cause or causes so that your old symptoms can settle back down again. Left unchecked, you will continue to suffer and exhibit flare-up like illness.
Montel Williams Courtesy of Oprah's Show
- A Day in the Life of Montel Williams - Diet, Exercise, Medication - Oprah.com
Although in constant, excruciating pain, Montel believes his exercise regiment benefits him greatly. Dr. Oz spent the day with Montel and the information was presented on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
What Causes Pseudo Flares
I remember the number one cause of my pseudo flares was oddly enough a sinus infection. In truth any infectioncan cause a pseudo flare. Just think about it, most infections cause some kind of increase in core body temperature. And what is the worse thing for MS? An increase in body temperature. The body responds just like an electrical chord responds when it is frayed, it gets open patches that prevents the smooth supply of electricity. Elevated body temperature, even just a degree, shorts out our electrical connections from our brains to our nerves and muscles and caos ensues.
I have made more than one trip to the emergency room for what I thought was a sudden attack, only to discover I had a fever due to the fact that my sinuses were infected. One time I was in the ER with a temperature of 103 degrees. As soon as I was re-hydrated and my temperature came down, all the MS symptoms disappeared too. It got to the point that I would ask the attending to check my sinuses when I had to go to the ER, just to save time. If the attending found an infection, we both knew all that was needed were antibiotics and a Tylenol -type over the counter drug, to lower my fever. Soon, I didn't even go to the ER when it happened, instead, I recognized the symptoms and would go to my primary doctor to treat the infection before it had time to get a firm hold on my MS and send it into overdrive.
Although I have only had one of these, many people with MS suffer from chronic UTI's (urinary tract infections) this type of infection does not mix well at all with MS. Drink plenty of cranberry juice as a preventative, and seek medical help as soon as an infection takes hold, to prevent a full-scale launch of MS symptoms.
In addition to infections, a cold or virus will accomplish the same thing. Don't think they can be ignored or MS will remind you who is really the boss by slowing down your nerve conduction just enough to trigger your MS symptoms.
Now that summer is here, you have to be on the look out for the 3-H's, Hazy-Hot-Humid weather. Its toughest on your ability to walk. Your brain will all but shut down, making thinking and talking a major struggle. You will feel totally overheated even if it isn't considered abnormally hot to other people.
Most people with MS find their symtoms act up when it is 75 or above. I am fortunate in that I can tolerate about 85 degrees before I began to feel it. I will suffer badly when a heat wave hits however. Nothing can be done about Jesey's dog-days of summer. Except to seek shelter in the a/c until it passes.
If you are out and about on a hot day and by the time you get home you feel like your legs have turned into jelly and your energy has been totally spent, then you have just suffered a pseduo flare-up!
Last but not least, as painful as this is to hear, exercise can cause a pseudo flare-up. The one thing everyone tells you to do to help your MS is the one thing that can make your symptoms flare and send you to your bed or couch feeling totally exhausted and unable to function. The secret to exercising, is finding your body's toleration point. Notice I said your body's tolerance. That won't be your preferred point of toleration. In fact, for most of us who enjoyed exercising and believe in its benefits, this is a hard pill to swallow. You just want to muscle through it and make your body obey your commands. For some people with MS, forcing themselves does little to no harm and often even helps. Consider Montel Williams as a good example of this point. If your body allows it, then by all means go for it. I was able to benefit from regular exercise for a long time. I still believe it is the main reason my muscles have kept functioning even in my current condition. Back when I was first diagnosed, I started lifting weights, losing weight, and taking better care of my body to perserve the strength I had, for as long as I could.
Usually, I am able to perform tasks that normal MSers can't do. Things like jumping on one foot and other strength type exercises. My doctors would tell me to squeeze their hand and when I did they would say, "ouch, that hurt." I always wonder why they tell me to squeeze hard, if they don't want to be hurt, but hey I digress. My point is that you can cut down on the amount of exercise you do and still maintain your weight and strength. The adjustment is really a mental one, you have to feel good about exercising even if you can't work up a sweat like you use to, or even if you can only work out for 20 or 30 minutes at a time, instead of that hour or two hours you use to do.
If you feel like a limp noodle after you exercise and you don't recover in say an hour or so, you are exercising too much and you are flaring up your MS.
With the aforementioned tips in mind, I hope you are able to manage your MS better and for you newbies, I hope you are better able to distinquish between a real flare-up and a pseudo flare-up