Cold Feet

The complaint of cold feet is common in MS, even in the milder forms of the disease. The maintenance of skin temperature is an "involuntary" process under the control of that portion of the nervous system referred to as "autonomic," which controls functions such as heart rate, sweating, and pupil dilation. Short-circuiting in the interconnections that control the diameter of blood vessels and those nerves that sense temperature appears to be responsible for the perception of cold feet.

This symptom may be annoying, but it usually is innocuous. There is nothing wrong with the blood vessels themselves in the legs or feet, and there is nothing dangerous in the slight drop in temperature that produces this sensation. It should be emphasized that cold feet do not signify a general circulatory problem. Most people who have this symptom are young and have normal blood vessels. Although they are not protected from vascular disease by MS, they are no more likely to have it than are others of a similar age. Nonetheless if the problem is severe it should be checked out by a physician.

The best way to manage the problem of cold feet is with warm socks, an electric blanket, and similar local treatments. occasionally, niacin or medications that dilate blood vessels may be used to alleviate this symptom when it is particularly annoying.

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