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Cooling Vest May Help Ease MS Symptoms

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    Cooling Vest May Help Ease MS Symptoms

    Cooling Vest May Help Ease MS Symptoms
    By Emma Hitt, PhD

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - People with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be able to ease their symptoms by wearing a cooling vest, study findings suggest.

    MS is a chronic inflammatory disease in which a person's antibodies attack the outer layer of nerve cells, resulting in muscle weakness, impaired balance, fatigue and other symptoms.

    Up to 80% of MS patients report that their symptoms worsen in a warmer environment, and cooling often relieves the symptoms, according to Dr. Jacques H. A. de Keyser of the University Hospital in Groningen, the Netherlands, and colleagues.

    In the study, de Keyser's team tested the ability of a cooling garment to improve energy levels, balance and muscle strength in 10 heat-sensitive MS patients. The garment consisted of a vest and cap attached to a box with rechargeable batteries that pumps coolant fluid through the garment.

    Half of the patients wore the garment with the temperature set at 7 degrees Celsius (44 degrees Fahrenheit), which the researchers called ``active cooling,'' and the other half wore the garment with the temperature set at 26 degrees Celsius (78 degrees Fahrenheit), which was perceived as cool by the patients but served as inactive ``sham cooling.''

    In the September 11th issue of Neurology, de Keyser and his colleagues report that patients who received active cooling for an hour experienced improved energy levels, balance and muscle strength when measured before treatment and 3 hours later compared with the patients who received the sham cooling.

    The researchers also found that the cooling vest decreased the production of a substance called nitric oxide in the white blood cells of the patients. This reduction, they suggest, might be important because it could improve the conduction of nerve signals in MS patients.

    However, the authors point out that ``the effect on fatigue is more difficult to interpret because its underlying mechanism in MS is not completely understood.''

    ``Although it is a modest effect, the vest may improve activities of daily living and self-support,'' de Keyser told Reuters Health.

    The researcher said he and his colleagues want to find out if the vest works on patients without heat-sensitive symptoms and if patients really need an expensive garment like the one they tested, or whether a cheaper method of cooling is possible.

    ``The vest is not a treatment for MS, but merely reduces the symptoms,'' de Keyser stressed. However, ``the vests are helpful for patients with heat-sensitive symptoms and with a certain degree of disability,'' he added.

    SOURCE: Neurology 2001;57:892-894

    Cooling and MS

    This is certainly not a new intervention, but one that many people with MS have used for years, either with the newer high tech vests, the bulky external pump vests (used mostly in therapy programs) or simply wearing a wet T-shirt. It is nice to see that practical experience is being backed up with some more solid research though, as few insurances will pay for these vests. (KLD)
    The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.