Researchers have recently discovered that the fatigue that patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience is not the same kind of fatigue that healthy people feel from time to time, nor is it caused by the same factors. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society reports that around 80% of people who suffer from MS experience ongoing fatigue, and that the symptom has a major impact on daily life and work. As a result, fatigue is directly associated with the rate of early retirement reported among MS patients.
Those with Multiple Sclerosis often experience episodes of fatigue every day. Onset of the symptom can come suddenly, almost like an attack or exacerbation. Early research into MS-related fatigue by Dr. Victoria M. Leavitt, a noted neuropsychologist and a co-founder of the New York-based Manhattan Memory Center, revealed that outdoor heat aggravates both the disease and fatigue-related symptoms. The previous study also indicated that an MS patient’s internal temperature may affect the disease progression.
In a new study led by Leavitt along with Dr. James F. Sumowski, a senior research scientist in neuropsychology and neuroscience at the Kessler Foundation, the researchers studied fifty patients with RRMS, as well as twenty-two patients with secondary progressive MS (SPMS) and forty healthy patients as controls in the experiment. The study, entitled, “Body temperature is elevated and linked to fatigue in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, even without heat exposure,” was published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
As a result of this new study, more extreme fatigue was observed in RRMS patients with warmer body temperatures. However, they could not reach a conclusion on whether body temperature played a role in secondary progressive MS patients because the patients did not present with a fever in the study.
Sumowski commented that body temperature issues in MS patients — including low-grade fevers, which are frequently reported as well — may be the result of the internal inflammatory process associated with the disease. He went on to say that, “Rather than chronic inflammation, however, we think that body temperature may fluctuate with day-to-day fluctuations in inflammation among RRMS patients, although this still needs to be investigated directly.”
These new research insights into inflammation, body temperature, and fatigue may give researchers and pharmaceutical companies a new angle for treating inflammation in MS in order to curtail body temperature fluctuations and ultimately control fatigue symptoms.