24 May 2010
So was the case with 45–year–old Rubina Mazhar, mother of two, who has been grappling with MS for the last five years.
"I had a vague idea about MS from a few novels I had read. I was devastated since I understood that it was a rare and degenerative disorder," says Rubina, who has remarkably coped with the condition. She runs an NGO for Muslim women and her vibrant status messages on social networking sites do not say anything about her condition.
On World Multiple Sclerosis Day to be observed on May 26, city–based neurologists say that it was assumed until recently that MS (a chronic progressive disease of the central nervous system) was rare in India but this is no longer the case.
Dr Jaydeep Ray Choudhuri, neurologist at Yashoda Hospital says, "It is not rare anymore as every neurologist in the city is seeing one case per month.’’ Women are more prone to the disease as against men, he informs.
Experts said that slurred speech, muscle weakness, paralysis and vision problems are symptoms of MS, which is incurable and can affect the person in any part of the body. Venkat, for instance, recalls how he woke up to MS when he suddenly realised his gait was getting unstable. The symptoms rapidly progressed, forcing him to approach neurologists who diagnosed the disease. Today he says he is coping, albeit slowly, through counselling, physiotherapy, yoga and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India’s (MSSI) support groups.
Raising concerns, doctors say MS is found in the age group of 15 to 50, though those in the productive age group of 15 to the late 20s, are the most affected. But on a positive note, more and more cases of MS are being diagnosed thanks to more accessible MRI scan facilities, the doctors add.
"It can be detected in case of recurrent attacks through MRI. But the exact causes are yet to be ascertained," says neurologist Dr Vemula Sreekanth, who is associated with Lucid Diagnostics. Dr Jaydeep further states that MS is one of the forms of auto immune disease probably triggered by a viral infection.
According to figures available with the Hyderabad chapter of the MSSI, there are approximately 50,000 cases of multiple sclerosis across the country.
"We have about 10 to 15 people coming to us every year for counselling but that is just a fraction of the cases. There are many more out there who refuse to accept their diagnosis because of the taboo attached to it," says Meena Gupta, chairperson of MSSI, Hyderabad chapter, which is now planning to come up with a dedicated MS Clinic for patients.
Prompt detection can make all the difference, doctors say, as the disease starts in young adulthood and is not fatal. Hence, a patient following a healthy lifestyle lives his normal life. "Tests should be carried out even if the person suffers from one attack," doctors suggest.