Uhthoff’s syndrome is a symptom of multiple sclerosis characterized by the worsening or blurring of vision caused by an increase of temperature, usually associated with exercise or overheating.
It is named after a German neuro-ophthalmologist named Wilhelm Uhthoff (pronounced ut-hof), who first described it in 1890. It is also called Uhthoff’s phenomenon or Uhthoff’s sign.
What causes Uhthoff’s syndrome?
As the body temperature rises, the ability of damaged nerves to conduct impulses is reduced.
Nerve fibers damaged by MS conduct messages to and from the brain much slower, if at all. An increase in body temperature may cause messages to stop being sent, or to be sent even slower, which makes the symptoms worse until the body temperature returns to normal.
The worsening and blurring of vision condition generally resolves by itself with rest.
How to manage Uhthoff’s syndrome
There is no treatment for Uhthoff’s syndrome except to avoid overheating the body. All MS patients who are affected with this phenomenon should define their limits when exercising and the best time of day to exercise (mornings are generally better for most MS patients).
Wearing cooling vests and wraps, taking cool baths or showers, sucking ice cubes or ice chips, or using air conditioning or a fan may also help reduce body temperature.
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