By Dr. Satish Khadilkar
Walking, talking, moving the hands or any part of the body, digestion, simple reflexes are actions that we don’t usually think about, we see them as automatic responses. The nervous system is the body’s command center, the sole owner of the body’s response to itself and the world around it. It plays an intrinsic role in all aspects of health and well-being, making nerve health an area of serious concern. With recent lifestyle changes and widespread deficiencies, it is imperative to address nerve health issues and raise awareness more than ever.
There is a lack of awareness of neuropathy or general nerve health as well as a lack of awareness of its symptoms. A study was commissioned by P&G Health and conducted by Heal Health & Hansa Research last year to assess levels of awareness and perceptions of nerve health among the population. Key findings from the survey indicated that 91% of respondents thought nerve health is important, however, 62% were unaware that nerves and blood vessels are different. For this reason, the symptoms are often mistakenly dismissed by patients/consumers as muscle or blood circulation related issues.
Only 50% of respondents associated their indicative symptoms with nerve health, while >60% of respondents ignored symptoms of poor nerve health. With several contributing factors to neuropathy, in some cases it tends to be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed due to a lack of awareness or use of crude screening tools leading to an underestimation of neuropathy in patients/consumers.
While diabetes and alcohol are generally known to impact nerve health, the same Heal Health & Hansa Research report indicated that few respondents associated diabetes and alcohol with nerve damage. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is one of the most common complications of diabetes that causes sensory, motor and autonomic symptoms affecting daily life. The survey results indicate a strong need to address nerve health in India.
According to the Consensus Recommendations for the Management of Peripheral Neuropathy in India: The picture of peripheral neuropathy in India is different from that in the world. Indian community-based studies show a frequency of 0.5 (0.05%) to 240 per 1,000 (24%) population. This suggests that the older population is more affected (30-40%) than the younger population (2-8%), which is the result of comorbidities, medication intake, and several other factors that involve the process of aging.
The increase in numbers could also be due to the fact that there was no systematic review available of trends in incidence, prevalence and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) for major neurological disorders in the states of India over a long period. . A detailed study is needed to inform and guide neurological health policies and programs in the country. For this reason, the understanding of nerve-related disorders, their symptoms, diagnosis and treatment has always been inadequate. To overcome these problems, greater awareness, education and understanding of nerve damage are integral.
How to combat the increase in nerve-related disorders
Collective ecosystem of patients/consumers, their caregivers and healthcare professionals to shed light on the importance of health and nerve care.
This will dispel assumptions and myths surrounding the disease and help people become more aware and vigilant. There is a need to advocate for more standardized and consistent diagnostic processes and standards to better equip healthcare professionals when dealing with patients with neuropathy or nerve-related issues.
Ensure proper treatment of the nerve health disorder
It is important to ensure early detection, management and treatment of symptoms.
This is only possible through extensive awareness programs and affordable health care. Government initiated public health programs, seminars, workshops, educational programs, health camps are few ways to reach consumers.
Maintain nerve health at home
Although medical support is of the utmost importance, there are some ways to maintain nerve health at home. Introducing better dietary and lifestyle practices such as healthy eating – inclusion of B12 in the diet, controlling and monitoring blood pressure and sugar levels, active lifestyle will help to ensure long-term neurological health.
(The author is Dean and HOD, Dept. of Neurology, Bombay Hospital & Medical Research Center, India. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)