By Dr. Satish Khadilkar
Walking, talking, moving one’s hands or any body part, digestion, simple reflexes are actions that we usually don’t think about, we see them as automated responses. The nervous system is the command centre of the body, the sole proprietor of the response that one’s body gives to itself and the world around it. It plays an intrinsic role in every aspect of health and wellbeing, making nerve health an area of grave concern. With the recent lifestyle changes and prevalent deficiencies, it is imperative to tackle nerve health issues and spread awareness now more than ever.
There is a lack of awareness around Neuropathy or general nerve health along with lack of awareness around its symptoms. A study was commissioned by P&G Health and conducted by Heal Health & Hansa Research last year to gauge the awareness levels and perceptions about nerve health amongst the population. The key findings of the survey indicated that 91% Respondents believed that Nerve Health is important, however, 62% of them did not know that nerves & blood vessels are different. Owing to this, the symptoms are often mistakenly dismissed by patients/consumers as muscular or blood circulation related issues.
Only 50% Respondents associated their indicative symptoms with Nerve Health while >60% of Respondents ignored symptoms of poor nerve Health. With several factors contributing 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 & alcohol are commonly known to impact Nerve Health, the same report by Heal Health & Hansa Research indicated that few respondents associated diabetes and alcohol with nerve damage. Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is one of the most common complications of diabetes which causes sensory, motor, and autonomic symptoms impacting everyday life. The survey findings are indicative of a strong need for addressing 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 than what it is globally. Indian studies based on communities show a frequency of 0.5 (0.05%) to as high as 240 per 1,000 (24%) population. It suggests that the older- aged populace is affected more (30-40%) than the younger population (2-8%), which is a result of comorbidities, medication intake, and several other factors that involves the process of aging.
The increase in number could also be contributed to the fact that there was no methodical study available on trends in the incidence, prevalence, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for the major neurological disorders across the states of India over a long period. Detailed study is needed to inform and guide neurological health policies and programmes in the country. Owing to this, the understanding around nerve related disorders its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment has always been inadequate. To overcome these issues, greater awareness, education, and understanding of Nerve damage is integral.
How to tackle increased Nerve related disorders
Collective ecosystem of patients/ consumers, their caregivers, and healthcare professional to shed light on the importance of nerve health and care.
This will alleviate the assumptions and myths around the condition and help people become more aware and watchful. There is a need to advocate more standardised and consistent diagnosing processes and standards to better equip healthcare professionals when dealing with patients suffering from Neuropathy or nerve related concerns.
Ensuring proper treatment of nerve health disorder
It is important to ensure early detection and management and treatment of symptoms.
This is only possible through extensive awareness programs and affordable health care. Government initiated public health schemes, seminars, workshops, educational programs, health camps are few ways of reaching consumers.
Maintain nerve health at home
While medical support is of utmost importance, there are certain ways of maintaining nerve health at home. Introducing better dietary and lifestyle practises such as healthy eating – inclusion of B12 in diet, controlling and monitory blood pressure and sugar levels, active lifestyle will aid in ensure long-term neurological health.
(The author is Dean and HOD, Dept. of Neurology, Bombay Hospital & Medical Research Center, India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)