The Neurology Department of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Qatar (MSSQ) recently organised an awareness campaign to mark World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day and to highlight MS as a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord. The theme for this year’s global campaign is Life with MS.
World MS Day is officially marked on the last Wednesday of May each year. However, events and campaigns take place throughout the whole month of May. The global health awareness day brings the MS community together to share stories, raise awareness and campaign with, and for people affected by MS. The MS Day campaign events held across HMC this year aim to educate staff and the public about the signs and symptoms of the disease and the importance of early detection and treatment.
On 24 May, clinical and non-clinical staff from HMC, along with patients and their families, attended an educational workshop highlighting MS as the most common auto-immune disorder affecting the central nervous system.
Information booths, staffed by MSSQ members, were also set up at the Mall of Qatar and Villaggio Mall. Educational materials and leaflets about MS were distributed to the public and MSSQ staff answered queries about the disease.
Dr Hassan Al Hail, Senior Consultant, Medicine, explained that in cases of multiple sclerosis, the immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibres and causes communication problems between the brain and the rest of the body. Eventually, the disease can cause the nerves themselves to deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
More than 2.5 million people in the world, mostly females between the ages of 17 and 27 years, are suffering from MS. The incidence rate of MS in the Gulf area is around 9.6 to 17 cases per 100,000 people. In Qatar, there are more than 500 patients, mostly young females, suffering from MS.’
According to Dr Al Hail, the signs and symptoms of MS vary widely and depend on which nerves are affected and the amount of damage on the nerve.
Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms.’
He said MS signs and symptoms can include:
Numbness or weakness in one or more limb (typically occurs on one side of the body at a time, or the legs and trunk)
Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye at a time, often with pain during eye movement
Prolonged double vision
Tingling or pain in parts of the body
Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward
Tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait
Slurred speech, fatigue, and dizziness
Problems with bowel and bladder function
Dr Al Hail explained that various factors such as age, gender, certain infections, climate, some autoimmune diseases and smoking may increase an individual’s risk of developing MS.
He mentioned that a complete neurological exam and medical history are needed to diagnose MS, which could include blood tests, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap or taking a small sample of fluid from the spinal canal for laboratory analyses) and MRI scans.
Dr Al Hail emphasised that there is no cure for MS and treatment typically focuses on slowing the progression of the disease and managing MS symptoms.
Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary. However, treatment for MS signs and symptoms can include physical therapy, muscle relaxants, medication to reduce fatigue and other symptoms.’
Visit hamad.qa for more information about their awareness campaign on Multiple Sclerosis.