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April 5, 2017

‘Up to 100 Pakistanis becoming Parkinson’s disease victims daily’


April 5, 2017

Neurologists say environmental, genetic and lifestyle
issues are some of the factors causing the ailment

Around 80 to 100 people in Pakistan are being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which shows that the neurodegenerative disorder is spreading in the country at an alarming speed, top neurologists of the country warned on Tuesday.

They were speaking at a news conference, which was organised by the Movement Disorder Society of Pakistan (MDSP), at Karachi Press Club.

Eminent neurologists, including MDSP President Dr Nadir Ali Syed, Prof Dr Shaukat Ali, Dr Naila Shahbaz, Dr Khalid Sher from the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Dr Abul Malik and Parkinson’s patient Haroon Bashir, spoke.

“Like many other non-communicable diseases, Parkinson’s disease is spreading at an alarming rate in Pakistan, and it is feared that within next 14 years, the number of patients with neurological, movement disorder, which is around six hundred thousand people at the moment, would be doubled by 2030,” said Dr Nadir Ali Syed.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people and slows down the movement of the person while his or her hands start shaking and trembling. Most people’s symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease without any significant issue or problem.

“The actual number of patients with Parkinson’s disease in Pakistan is unknown, but according to an estimate, around 600,000 people suffer from this neurological disorder,” Dr Syed said. “Unfortunately, half of these people are not aware that they have a serious neurological issue, which can be treated and they can continue leading a normal life.”

“A person gets Parkinson’s disease when his or her brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. With less and less dopamine, a person has less and less ability to regulate his or her movements, body and emotions,” Dr Syed said, adding that although Parkinson’s was not a fatal disease, it could have serious complications for the patients resulting in death. 

Slowness in walking and other bodily movements, trembling of right or left hand and stiffness in the body are some of the early signs of the disease. 

Dr Syed said environmental, genetic, lifestyle and pollutants were some of the factors behind Parkinson’s disease.

He claimed that the ailment was largely under-diagnosed in Pakistan, where not only common people but even many physicians were not aware of the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of the movement disorder.  Another neurologist Dr Naila Shahbaz said although there was no complete cure available for the Parkinson’s disease, most of the people with the neurological disorder could live a healthy life through identification of individual symptoms and determining a proper course of treatment.

Emphasising the need for creating awareness about the neurological disorders in Pakistan, she deplored that most of the physicians considered it to be an outcome of old age and were also not aware of the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and management of the disease.

Last year, Pakistani neurologists had prepared and issued national guidelines for the treatment and management of Parkinson’s disease for neurologists and physicians after it was found that the majority of physicians were not aware of the specific symptoms, protocols for the diagnosis of the health condition as well as its treatment and management with the help of drugs available in the market.

Prof Dr Shaukat Ali said a number of qualified neurologists having adequate knowledge of the disease was also quite less in Pakistan as compared to the growing number of patients.

Paying tribute to the Parkinson’s Society of Pakistan (PSP), a patient of the disease, Haroon Bashir, said excessive use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides in the agricultural sector was thought to be the main reason for the disease in Pakistan.

PSP President Haroon Bashir, who himself is a Parkinson’s patient and striving for awareness about the disease for the last many years, called for creating awareness through the print and electronic media about the mental disorder among common people, and urged the government to take steps for the training of neurologists and paramedical staff to help in providing care to people living with the neurological disorder.

World Parkinson’s Day is observed on April 11 every year, which is also the birthday of Dr James Parkinson. 

Bashir said that in Pakistan, their society and neurologists supported patients with the disease and helped them in living a normal and healthy life.

Dr Abdul Malik urged the government to play its role in increasing the number of neurologists at teaching and district hospitals in the country, saying that only trained and qualified neurologists could properly diagnose and treat patients with neurological disorders, including Parkinson’s disease.

The head of the JPMC’s neurology department, Dr Khalid Sher, said now surgical procedures, including deep brain stimulation, had been introduced for the treatment of Parkinson’s patient in Lahore, and hoped that soon those procedures would be introduced in Karachi.  “With the introduction of surgical procedure and medicines, the quality of life of such patients would be improved to a large extent.”