Concern Over Growing MS Rate

Concern Over Growing MS Rate  Concern Over Growing MS Rate

The incidence of MS is rising in the Middle East but Iran is experiencing a faster growth rate than regional countries, according to a senior official at the Iran Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Iran has the largest number of MS cases in the region and is approaching the figures in countries with the highest rates of the disease [including Canada, Norway and Sweden],” said Mohammad Reza Mo’tamed, head of the society’s Scientific Committee of the MS society.

The rate of MS incidence has risen from 27 per 100,000 people a few years ago to 115 to 120 per 100,000 people at present. Canada (291 per 100,000), Norway (160 per 100,000) and Sweden (189 per 100,000) have some of the highest prevalence rates in the world, he noted.

“More sociological and epidemiological studies are required to find out the reasons behind this increase,” in Iran, he was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Multiple sclerosis is a demyelinating disease in which the insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord are damaged. This damage disrupts the ability of parts of the nervous system to communicate, resulting in a range of signs and symptoms, including physical, mental, and sometimes psychiatric problems. Specific symptoms can include double vision, blindness in one eye, muscle weakness, trouble with sensation, or trouble with coordination.

MS is an immune-mediated disease. The body’s immune cells attack healthy nerve tissue, although the cause for this is still unknown. The disease usually begins between the ages of 20 and 50 and is twice as common in women as in men.

There is no known cure for MS and treatments only attempt to improve function after an attack and prevent new attacks.

Mohammad Ali Sahraiyan, vice chairman of the society, advised the public not to trust reports about “specific cures for the disease” and said MS patients should consult their physicians for treatment. Rumors about new cures for the disease are often spread which encourage patients to spend huge sums of money in seeking the worthless remedies that eventually cause disappointment and further anxiety.

“Such reports arise from the primary results of research projects and are misreported as a definite cure,” he said.

No doubt there have been rapid advancements in medications to control the symptoms of the disease in recent years.

“Almost 20 years ago, there were only one or two drugs for MS, but since 2006, seven new medicines have been discovered and approved by the global medical fraternity,” Sahraiyan said, claiming that MS control “has improved from 30% to 70%.”

 Drugs Available in Local Market

MS medicines are available in Iran and drug companies have been able to meet the domestic needs. But the medicines are costly and given the chronic nature of the disease, there is need to take them regularly.

“Several commonly used drugs have been brought under insurance coverage but a number of other expensive medicines should also be covered,” said Mo’tamedi.

The country, however, has lagged in creating an established MS healthcare system.

To address the shortcoming, the MS society in cooperation with the government has started a pilot project in comprehensive MS healthcare and four clinics have been set up.

“Iran needs at least 50 comprehensive MS care clinics to each offer services to 1,500 to 2,000 patients,” said Sahraiyan.

While there is no remedy so far to prevent the disease, the disabilities resulting from the condition can be ameliorated through certain techniques and changes in lifestyle.

“Regular exercise, low-fat and fruit/vegetable-rich diet, smoking cessation and reducing stress and anxiety are among the main strategies to alleviate the symptoms, besides medication,” the MS specialist said.

Vitamin D deficiency has been referred to as one of the causes of MS, but Sahraiyan said there have been cases where patients with adequate levels of vitamin D have the disease.

He also advised the public to be cautious in taking vitamin D supplements as high doses can lead to poisoning.

The global pattern of diseases is gradually shifting from communicable to non-communicable among which autoimmune illnesses like MS are the most significant conditions.  

World MS Day is officially marked on the last Wednesday of May. Events and campaigns take place throughout the month. It brings the global MS community together to share stories, raise awareness and campaign for everyone affected by multiple sclerosis.

A conference is to be held on May 25 at Etela’at newspaper’s conference hall to mark the day. Masoumeh Ebtekar, head of the Department of Environment, Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice-president for Women and Family Affairs, Rahmatollah Hafezi, member of Tehran City Council, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and Fatemeh Hashemi, head of the Foundation for Special Diseases, have been invited.

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