My MS Has Been No Sweat. Has Yours, Too?

My MS Has Been No Sweat. Has Yours, Too?

I worked up a little sweat when I was exercising the other day. It was just a tiny bit on my forehead, but it was something I hadn’t felt in many years.

I’ve lived with MS since 1980, and before now, I can’t remember the last time I felt sweaty. Not in the exercise room. Not in the heat and humidity of summer. My MS has been no-sweat for many years, and apparently, I’m not alone.

I took a small, unscientific survey about sweat on one of the MS Facebook pages that I frequent. Of the 64 people who answered, 33 said they perspired very little or not at all. For some, this began after they were diagnosed with MS, but others say they can’t remember ever sweating. Several said that when they got warm, rather than sweating, their skin turned pink or “reddish.”

There were also 31 people who said that they did perspire. Interestingly, many of them said their sweating had increased after their MS diagnosis, and many of them also said they now sweat profusely.

Studies report about MS and sweating

A very small study, published in March in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, concluded that “MS blunts sweating responses during exercise,” but it draws no conclusion about why that happens.

Another small study published in 2005 in the Journal of Applied Physiology noted, “Individuals with MS have diminished sweat gland function compared with healthy control subjects.” This study does suggest a reason: damage to parts of the nervous system that are involved in regulating body temperature. The researchers wrote: “Areas of the sympathetic nervous system (hypothalamic area and posterior tract of the spinal cord) that control thermoregulatory functions are susceptible to demyelination in individuals with MS.”

Why am I feeling sweaty again?

I think my ability to sweat may be returning thanks to the Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) treatment I’ve been receiving. I’m 14 months past the end of the second round of this disease-modifying therapy, and I’ve observed improvements in a few of my MS symptoms. My bladder control is better, my bowels have become more regular, and my energy level is up. If Lemtrada is doing something that results in these improvements, why couldn’t it also be fixing the functions that regulate my body heat and my ability to sweat?

Fellow Multiple Sclerosis News Today columnist Laura Kolaczkowski has wondered the same thing. Laura wrote a column similar to this one two years ago. The difference between us is that she is being treated with Ocrevus (ocrelizumab).

Ocrevus and Lemtrada are similar. Both target rogue cells in the immune system that are thought to be the ones that destroy myelin. The theory is that once the bad cells are destroyed, new, normal cells will return, halting disease progression. These treatments also appear to improve symptoms in both Laura and me.

Two years ago, she wrote, “A week or so ago, I was outside in the heat and caught myself reaching up to wipe my brow. Then it occurred to me, I was actually perspiring.” I checked with Laura a few days ago, and she says she’s still sweating.

What has your experience been? Are you a no-sweater or an over-sweater, and do you think it’s a result of your MS? Please share in the comments below. 

You’re invited to follow my personal blog at www.themswire.com.

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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

39 comments

  1. Gia says:

    I never sweat. When I get overheated, instead of sweating, I feel nauseous dizzy/light headed. This has gone on for as long as I can remember. I was diagnosed with MS in 2017 but I suspect I had it many years before being dignosed. I have often wondered if I get physically sick from heat because I cannot sweat.

  2. Harry says:

    I have the same problem. I dont sweat. This in turn makes me overheat easily. My body temp stays near 76.4 when it gets hot my temp goes above 99. This in turn causes me to loose feelings in my hands. I was diagnosed in 99 with MS after a head injury. I sweat fine until about the last 2 years. Im on ocrevus, so hopefully it’ll get better. Id like to be able to go outside again when it’s warm out.

  3. Kathy Allen says:

    Hello.
    Very interesting to read about.
    I have had MS for 45 years. I have also had issues with bladder & have been taking oxbutynin for about 20 years because of spasming & I had wondered if the oxybutynin which causes ‘dry mouth’ might be causing the ‘no sweating’ or contributing? Hard to remember what was happening prior to 20 years ago? I also get red in the face & will feel somewhat hot. But I have switched just recently to another med for spasming of the bladder & last nite which was very hot, I did sweat a little?
    Even though I don’t or haven’t sweated, I do have a cooling vest which is also in this Newsletter today.

  4. Claire Hartley says:

    I sweat a lot and often my hubby snuggles up to me when he’s cold because I’m so hot. I’ve had no periods where I’ve sweated less, but I’ve noted over the past year that it’s definitely more often.

  5. RG says:

    I began having bizarre thermoregulation issues about 2 decades before my dx. Chills in the heat of summer while being in the sun, dripping sweat in the midst of winter. In retrospect, I do think it was an early MS symptom.

    Now, I can bounce from being too warm to chilly in the space of 5 minutes! Nighttime is nightmare-time with pulling a blanket up, tossing it off all night long.

    No timed thermostat for me! I’m always changing it 1-2* up or down. Summer heat? Killer! I think I lose all my body’s water in the space of a 5 minute full-body sweat!

  6. Yes! My sister and I have remarked often about the fact that we just don’t sweat under almost all sweat provoking circumstances. I don’t take DMT so don’t know if that would cause a change. Thanks for the info.

  7. Alan says:

    I used to sweat profusely, but after being disguised noticed too, that I was no longer bothered by sweat on hot days.

    I still do sweat a lot, but only past a certain exercise threshold, so I would say that my sweat response is delayed. This goes for blushing and feeling hot as well.

    In my case, it was a blessing since I typically blushed and sweated more than normal, to the extent that I researched an operation where the sympathetic nerve was severed in the neck. So for this situation and a few others, the MS brought improvement.

  8. Tracie Jacquemin says:

    I realized that I no longer sweat when I had pneumonia and my fever broke. What a wonderful feeling to wake up sweaty! My body does not regulate temperature so it can take me an hour and a half to shower and get dressed because of my cooling down times. Now I realize that I have no idea when I last truly sweated from heat or exercise. I have had MS for 30 years.

  9. Nicole says:

    Thanks a lot – I thought my sweating was because I was working harder but now I know its the Ocrevus. I also thought I was a slug that didn’t work hard enough to sweat so again thanks for clearing that up for me. Interesting how I am learning to look for other explanations for my experiences since being diagnosed with MS in Oct/18. I thought I was constantly yawning and falling asleep because I was a midwife so I never considered looking for a solution to this problem. Keep writing and I’ll be reading!

  10. Lisa Yahl says:

    I received my ms diagnosis in 1991 at age nineteen. About ten years ago I stopped sweating and I feel cold all the time. I am currently on Ocrevus for the last 20 month’s and still no sweating just constant cold toes and nose.

  11. Mar says:

    I sweat profusely even when others are not even warm. It has definitely worsen over time. I was first dish back in 1985 and would sweat only when doing exercise or dancing.

    However it has become a problem for me the past 5 years! I start to sweat if I get overheated just standing there and it now leaves me dripping in sweat all over my body. Feel embarrassed around people and uncomfortable in my own skin.
    Not to mention I always have my hair clipped up off my neck.
    Horrible feeling to deal with everyday.

    I thought maybe some of it could have been linked to hormones but who knows for sure. No more menopause and the sweating gets worse

    Tried ice bags, cooling vests and neck rags. Only AC and relaxing seems to help.
    Any suggestions or info is appreciated.

  12. karyn says:

    You are right about the “not sweating anymore” comment. I don’t think I have broke a sweat in VERY long time. I was diagnosed with MS in 2000. So far still not sweating! I noticed another strange thing, I have lost all the hair on my legs and arms! This has been happening over the years. Now my legs and arms are bare of hair. I’ve been forgetting to ask my doctors about it. Any comments or diagnoses? I am just very curious. Please share with me.

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Hi Karyn,

      I’m not a healthcare professional so I won’t venture a guess about a diagnosis about the hair loss. However, I know that some of the medications we use to control our MS can result in hair loss, at least temporarily. And,since you’ve mentioned it, I have very, very little underarm hair. I never thought about it before but I know it wasn’t always that way.

      Ed

  13. Greg Bond says:

    I too am a Lemtrada patient, 10 months post round 1. I never had problems with sweating, but I have a somewhat related symptom – I never get a fever no matter how sick I get, haven’t had one in years, even with several bouts of the flu, food poisoning once. I sometimes have a hard time convincing my primary care doc I am sick.

    (Unfortunately I am having what is probably the worst relapse since diagnosed 20 years ago, little disappointed in the Lemtrada to say the least)

    • Ed Tobias says:

      Sorry about your relapse, Greg, but hang in. As I’m sure you’ve heard, Lemtrada is a marathon not a sprint.

      As for your lack of a fever….ain’t MS one crazy disease???

      Ed

  14. Angie says:

    Over-sweater here, but I’m undiagnosed so far. I have two doctors who are theorizing a demyelinating process, and two who seemed to be concerned about myasthenia gravis. Who knows? But personally, I think it might be nice to not sweat so much. Mine does seem to swing back and forth sometimes though. Like, for awhile, heat doesn’t bother me and I’m dry regardless. Then for awhile I’ll sweat like a pig close to my core while my hands and feet are ice cubes.. Bladder spasms, pain, other spasms, and weakness in all four limbs are the worst issues I deal with though; makes it really difficult to do much of anything required of me in life. And I hate it.

  15. R P says:

    I was diagnosed in 1997 and not much changed from then until around 2015 and “no sweat” is one of the changes I’ve noticed, definitely feel it has everything to do with ms.

  16. BeckyS says:

    I live in upstate NY and we get 100 plus inches of snow every year and the temperatures can go to – 8 F with ease. I have not used a winter coat for the last 5 years, opting only for a light sweater. I can raise a sweat in summer but it is rare. My favorite MRI tech tells me that his MS patients are rarely cold and it is something he watches for as a symptom. My last MRI was 4.5 hours and the day after Christmas. I was in a pair of short sleeve surgical scrubs and was perfectly comfortable for the entire time. He said it was freezing in the room and was amazed I didn’t need a warmed blanket.

  17. Anthony says:

    I went sweat-free last summer, but after starting Ocrevus 2-3 months ago, I have noticed that my armpits can get sweaty from time to time. Of course, Ocrevus may not be the cause.

  18. Anita says:

    Diagnosed w PPMS 5 yrs ago and had symptoms for 4 yrs prior. I only take hi-dose Biotin. I have noticed I am sweating more with exertion. When I vacuum, sweat will drip on the floor. Same when I walk the dogs outside. I can literally squeeze sweat out of my hair. When I hit the shower with cold water, it turns warm by the time it rolls down my back. Hate it!

  19. Steffy says:

    I do not sweat. Never did. The exception is night sweats and my neck. My neck sweats because I have serious hair.

  20. Man I sweat like a “ stuck pig”.
    I’ve noticed it since I was about 22 years old. It would come out of no- where. It would just pour off of me. There will be no triggers ,I.e exercise . There’s also nothing I can do to turn it off. It can be reall embarrassing.

  21. Cee says:

    I’m just coming off 5 days of IV prednisone for a relapse. One of the most obvious symptoms of said relapse was profuse sweating on half my torso… highly demarcated down my midline (back and front), only on my right side. It did not go on to my face, nor did it go lower than my waist. It came on quickly and was so heavy, I was wet constantly and would soak through my sheet at night and shirts in the day.

    After just one day of steroids it vanished. I am back to being dry again. No one on my healthcare team had heard of this happening but I’m here to say it was definitely an MS thing!

  22. Linda L Halvorson says:

    The summer before my 1st exacerbation in 1976, I was taking a Finnish sauna at a cabin in northern Minnesota. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s basically a sweat room where there’s a hot stove with rocks that you pour water over. A friend commented later that I didn’t sweat at all during the fifteen minutes or so that I was in there.

  23. Sarah says:

    Ed – I really enjoy how you ask others to share their experiences. It is very interesting to know what others are experiencing and how similiar AND different my symptoms are to others.

    I too, do not sweat and have not since my MS diagnosis in 2013. I overheat during exercise, hot showers, and high temperature days. Frog Togg Chilly Pad Cooling Towels and a cooling vest help immensely, as does exercising in water. I also get cold very quickly. There is a very narrow temperature range where I feel in my comfort zone. My MS physical therapist says this is very common in the MS patients he sees.

  24. Sandra Schneider says:

    Another unscientific poll: Since MS diagnosis in 86′, I have not been ticklish. I’ve never met someone with MS who has remained ticklish after diagnosis. I think it is more accurate than an MRI!

  25. bill says:

    Hi Ed,
    15 years now.. I don’t sweat, that being said when I am having a strong episode, I stink.. B.O., no sweat just P.U..
    Dr said “thats normal” oh just too much fun..
    thanks for the article.

  26. Lois says:

    As a kid, I was the one who got school pics taken right after gym class (several times). I was ringing wet. I haven’t sweat in over a decade. I get beet red and overheat if I don’t go in…but I don’t sweat.

  27. Susan Dobrof says:

    I’VE BEEN diagnosed since ’85, used to sweat before MS now believe the disregulation of internal thermostat. For years I didn’t or couldn’t get a fever when I was sick. Been on Tysabri since ’07. Inthe last 5-8 yrs. I do get fevers. Good that immune system is working better–hard because fever worsens symptom– walking, cognition. I’m just recovering from flu–101 temp.! and feel it moved through rapidly. Maybe Tysabri?

  28. Lorraine Ziegler says:

    ….diagnosed in ’98, only injected Avonex for 6 mo, then switched to Copaxone for 10 years. Never sweat, just get red hot , wear an ice vest…trying Vegan diet, hope it helps.

  29. Amy L Higgins says:

    I sweat like crazy even in air conditioning and have for years, long before I started Lemtrada. I have had both doses (last one was in August 2018).
    I wish I didn’t sweat so much.

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