‘Early diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis has proved to change outcomes’

 

By completing diagnostic tests accurately and initiating appropriate treatments on time, doctors can greatly modify the damaging and irreversible course of the debilitating disease

 

Chandigarh: Immediate medical attention can help avoid life-long disability in the form of paralysis, blindness and inability to walk and write in patients of Multiple Sclerosis — a chronic and debilitating disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), according to expert doctors in the city.

 

In a country like India where the incidence of the disease has risen in the past few decades, it is ever more important to detect cases early and minimize the suffering of the diseased. There are a large number of MS patients but most of them are not diagnosed properly. This leads to a delay in treatment, making it much more complicated. Cases of multiple sclerosis have been steadily rising in India since the 1970s, when the frequency of cases was one in 100,000. Today, the frequency is 5-10 per 100,000 — a cause for worry among neurologists.

 

Multiple Sclerosis is a severe auto-immune disorder caused by damage to the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. MS affects more than 2,00,000 people in India, physically as well as psychologically. Marked by loss of balance, muscle spasms, weakness and memory loss, the disease usually affects people in the age group of 20 to 40 years. Its symptoms may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and vary in duration.

 

Dr Dheeraj Khurana, Additional Professor, Department of Neurology, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh says, “In Multiple Sclerosis, disability accumulates over time. Most of the times, the diagnosis of MS gets delayed due to failure to recognize its early attacks. Early detection is mandatory so as to initiate early treatment, which we now know that it delays onset of disability, and can possibly slow the disability progression and even prevent or delay exacerbation. In a small percentage of patients, the proper treatment gets delayed as they may get treated with medications with no proven benefit e.g. long term steroids which need to be avoided.”

 

It is almost impossible to reverse the extent of neurologic damage caused by the disease, especially when the disability has been present for over 12 months. This further reinforces the need of early diagnosis and treatment.

 

Timely detection can also help to relieve some patient anxiety. Many symptoms of MS are painful, weakening, or embarrassing. Reaching a diagnosis can take away the patient’s anxiety about the unknown cause of symptoms. Doctors should also encourage lifestyle changes such as exercising, eating a healthy diet, and stopping smoking. 

 

“MS is considered as a chronic, debilitating and relapsing-remitting disease with significant morbidity but at the same time it can be managed with proper care. There are many alternative therapies such as physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy that help in managing the symptoms. But the most important aspect is preventing a relapse by interferons. While researchers are continually working towards developing new treatments for different stages of MS, several other forms of treatments are being undertaken,” says Dr J P Singhvi, Senior Consultant, Neurology, Fortis Hospital, Mohali.

 

Understanding the medical history of the patient, using proper diagnostic standards, and early treatment greatly helps to minimize the exasperations that come with the illness and supports patients in coping with the disabling adverse effects of Multiple Sclerosis.

 

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