Neural Dilemma

While the number of patients suffering from neurological disorders is on the rise, there is a shortage of doctors to treat them

Despite the growth in the number of people suffering from neurological problems, there are not many neurologists to attend to the needs of 1.2 billion people. With an increasing population falling prey to degenerative diseases, neurological problems stand as one the biggest health threats in India .

Experts in the city have stressed on the need for more neurologists in India to attend to the increasing needs of patients suffering from neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Alzheimer's and dementia. One of the premier medical journals in the country, Journal of Association of Physicians of India (JAPI), stated earlier this year that there are approximately 1,100 qualified clinical neurologists working in India .

Doctors say that frequent screening with the use of technology such as CT scan and MRI scans is making it possible to detect and diagnose these conditions early.

"There has been a steady increase in the number of neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis in recent times. The numbers are rising due to increased awareness and increased availability of imaging facilities such as MRI scans," says Dr Arun Shah, consultant neurologist, Breach Candy Hospital , Mumbai.

Several common neurological conditions have also been recognised as serious and need urgent attention. These include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's among others. MS is an auto-immune disease in which the body attacks its own cells and tissues, in turn hampering neurological signals from the brain to nerves around the body.

According to estimates, there are over one lakh MS patients in the country and women are twice more likely to fall prey to MS than men.

Parkinson's is another common neurodegenerative disorder and is characterised by progressive loss of muscle control leading to loss of mobility. The disease is believed to affect about 7 million people in India . Approximately 70 per cent of all dementia cases can be attributed to Alzheimer's. There are around 3.7 million Indians who suffer from this dreaded disease accounting for almost a quarter of the global load. Doctors explained that there is an acute lack of facilities to detect or treat patients with Alzheimer's, so patients get ignored.

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