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Multiple Sclerosis Decoded

If you are facing problems with your vision, overwhelming fatigue, difficulty with balance and coordination, various levels of impaired mobility, muscle weakness and stiffness, or numbness in the limbs, don't take it lightly. These may be early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. And summer months are the period when these symptoms typically present themselves.

Says Dr Dheeraj Khurana, professor in the Department of Neurology at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGI for short), for a long time it was believed that the problem is predominantly seen in the West, but due to increasing awareness and advances in diagnostic modalities, it is increasingly being identified in the Indian sub-continent. The incidence is much higher (50-100 per 1,00,000 patients) in North America and Europe as compared to India (9-10 per 1,00,000 patients), he adds.
The symptoms of MS, which affects at least twice as many women (typically in 25-35 years age group) as men, can be mild, such as numbness in the limbs, or severe enough to cause blindness or paralysis. The disease in its most common form has a tendency to recur in the form of attacks characterized by sudden loss of vision or double vision, weakness of one side of the body or weakness of legs.

Multiple Sclerosis Decoded, Lifeinchd
Photo By: Life in Chandigarh

Dr Khurana says, MRI is the main test for diagnosis of MS, and a variety of treatment options are available, including oral and injectable medicines, numerous rehabilitative measures and vocational training. Very recently, a new drug – Ocrelizumab – has been approved for treatment of MS by the FDA in USA. This medicine also works in the severest form of MS called Primary Progressive MS. Stem cell transplant is another promising area of treatment of MS, he added.

These treatments are very expensive, Dr Khurana says, adding that an aggressive case of MS, requiring stronger medicines, can cost a patient Rs. 20,000-25,000 per month and the treatment is long, continuing up to 4-5 years. “Therefore we are thinking of launching an advocacy with the central government for providing such treatments free of cost,” he shares.

Dr Khurana informs that PGI holds a Multidisciplinary Special Clinic for MS and allied diseases twice a month on every 2nd and 4th Thursday in which 140 patients were seen last year. “Every month we get 3-4 new patients in the clinic. The multidisciplinary team comprises neurophysician, neurology resident, MS counsellor, psychologist, occupational therapist and physiotherapist providing a holistic management paradigm to the MS patients,” he adds.

Continuing with its activities related to World MS Day, which is officially marked on the last Wednesday of May, PGI as part of its Move Strong campaign to provide motivation and strength to its MS patients, is organising   continuing medical education programme for neurophysicians on June 3 to update them on latest MS treatments. On June 4, patients will get to see life in a positive light, beyond the disease and disability. Besides getting their queries answered, they will indulge in support group activities. A performance by a well known singer has also been arranged for them at Chandigarh Spinal Rehab Centre in Sector 28-A.

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