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03 October 2023

Ignoring neurological symptoms may even lead to permanent disability: Senior Neurologist

Photo: WAM


Lack of awareness on early symptoms of some neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, MS, prevent some youngsters in the UAE from taking medical help in the beginning, which even lead them to permanent disability, a senior neurologist told Emirates News Agency, WAM.

"The concern on MS is not the number of people afflicted by the disease but it is the most common cause of permanent disability in youngsters. These are the people who are just out of the college...or just started doing a job...or just got married...and this disease can make them disabled," said Dr. Ahmed Shatila, Consultant Neurologist at Sheikh Shakbout Medical City in Abu Dhabi, which is under Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA.

"It is not about huge number of patients. Even it is one person, he or she should not be left permanently disabled, especially since the UAE has a robust medical infrastructure to treat this disease; patients have to just utilise it properly," he pointed out.

In medical terms, multiple sclerosis is a progressive, immune-mediated disorder. That means the system designed to keep your body healthy mistakenly attacks parts of your body that are vital to everyday function. The protective coverings of nerve cells are damaged, which leads to diminished function in the brain and spinal cord, which may cause paralysis, vision loss, and diminished brain function.

Like any other chronic disease, the doctor said, early diagnosis and treatment are the key in controlling MS.

"If you have any new symptoms such as numbness, vision problems, pains and spasms, and weakness or fatigue, balance problems or dizziness etc., you should consult a physician who can identify its seriousness and refer you to a neurologist for further treatment," Dr. Shatila advised.

Mostly patients are in their 20s and 30s (in some cases up to 45). As young females are more vulnerable to this disease, they constitute 60 percent of the patients and 40 percent are men, he said.

MS is a chronic disease like diabetes and hypertension that are hard to be cured completely. Although it is not fatal, MS may reduce the patients’ life expectancy by 8 to 15 years, Dr. Shatila said.

However, early diagnosis and treatment help to control the disease without worsening the patient’s condition to permanent disability, the doctor explained.

Globally, on an average 100 people in 100,000 population are afflicted by MS but the number of cases in the UAE is fewer – on an average 66 in 100,000, he said.

Although the disease was detected in 1868, the research to find the exact reasons is still going on. Apart from genetic factors, possible viral infection and vitamin-D deficiency are the suspected causes, the doctor explained.

Properly following the treatment regimen is very important for a patient. Many patients with worsened conditions have admitted that they have not been taking medicines properly, Dr. Shatila revealed.

He has seen many success stories of patients who have overcome the MS with their determination and discipline. "A 16-year-old boy was diagnosed with MS. After three years’ treatment, now he can walk up to 15 kilometres," the doctor said.