Dubai, UAE: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is on the rise in the UAE, according to a survey by the MS International Federation.
Figures reveal that there were nearly 1,500 MS patients in the UAE last year, while in 2008 the number stood at 219.
Dr Suzann Nori, consultant neurologist at the Rashid Hospital , Dubai believes the spike in cases of the auto-immune disease, which damages the brain and spinal cord resulting in symptoms including dizziness, fatigue and numbness, may be due to improved monitoring and awareness of the condition.
"The rise in the numbers can be attributed to the increasing investigative measures being undertaken in this country," she said. "People are more aware of the disease and its symptoms. There are more doctors now than in 2008, with increased availability of MRIs, which are necessary to detect the disease. The increasing number of immigrants to this country also attributes to the rise."
The condition has a higher incidence of occurrence among UAE nationals. A 2011 study conducted by Dr Jihad Inshasi, Consultant Neurologist at Rashid Hospital , DHA, in Dubai, highlighted that out of the 284 MS patients identified, 158 (55.6 per cent) were UAE nationals while 126 (44.4 per cent) were immigrants. Among UAE nationals, the female to male ratio was 2.85:1, suggesting that females were at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
Another problem is that patients remain reluctant to come out in the open about their condition because of the fear of isolation or stigma, which makes ealy diagnosis more difficult.
"The cause for the onset of the disease has not yet been identified, hence we cannot identify the preventive or protective measures," said Dr Nori. "Identifying the early symptoms of the disease and proper treatment can help control disease progression and also prevent complications."
But while the disease is not curable, Dr Nori stressed that proper medication can help to slow the disease.
"We often tell patients to avoid heat to prevent attacks," she said. "In food options, we recommend consumption of Omega 3-6-9, which is common in fish, and avoiding red meat."
One of the most disturbing factors is funding the cost of the treatment. Most insurance companies do not foot the bill for MS treatment, which can be anywhere between Dh5,000 and Dh13,000 per month.
© Gulf News 2014Apr 2014