Experts call to build inclusive environment for patients with MS
The aim is to remove barriers and create opportunities for MS patients so that they can live independently and participate equally in community and workplace opportunities.
Marking the World MS (multiple sclerosis) Day observed on May 31 every year, renowned experts in the UAE have come together to garner the support of medical associations, government and the public at large to advocate for a more inclusive, conducive and supportive environment for people living with MS. The aim is to remove barriers and create opportunities for MS patients so that they can live independently and participate equally in community and workplace opportunities.
"Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that affects the nervous system. It is seldom fatal and life expectancy is shortened by only a few months. But life with MS can be difficult. Each day brings new challenges, which needs new solutions. The MS concerns more about prognosis, centred primarily on the quality of life and prospects for the disability.
Most patients and physicians harbour an unfounded view of MS as a relentlessly progressive, inevitably disabling disease. "The truth is that there are different severities of the condition. Many patients with MS go through life without any persistent disability, and suffer only intermittent, transient episodes of symptoms," said Dr Jihad Inshasi, consultant neurologist at Rashid Hospital, Dubai Health Authority.
Living with the condition, Sameer Barood, said: "For me, living with MS is all about not giving up. Working closely with my doctor and use of new treatments has helped a lot. A yearly drug therapy has especially been very effective for me. Overall, there is a lack of understanding about the disease in the region. Often people who have been diagnosed with MS do not adhere to their treatment, and stop their medication, as the symptoms are not persistent. The financial burden can be high, as not everyone has access to medication. Along with the help from family and friends, having the right support from healthcare institutions and the government can ensure that people with MS live a more fulfilling life."
"While currently, there is no cure for MS, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition. More importantly, there is a need to raise awareness about the physical and emotional impact of MS on everyday life. Many of the changes required are to enable people with MS to stay in the employment, such as adaptations at workplaces or improved access to treatments, only achievable through a better understanding of the challenges that they face," added Dr Jihad Inshasi.
There is a vital need to set up patient registries across the Middle East to have a strong foundation for clinical research. The local governments need to increase their commitment to MS research through increased funding and support of medical research facilities. Further, the formulation of clear therapeutic guidelines by regional MS experts, collaborative associations and improvement of data on previously studied areas can help bring about a progressive change in approaches to managing MS.
The increase in disease prevalence in various MENA countries might be due to the western lifestyle changes in these countries. Smoking, sun protection products, low vitamin D levels, and environmental factors such as air pollution might be possible reasons.
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