Treatments can help modify course of multiple sclerosis

Patients share their ordeal in fighting disease.

Chennai: R Ambika, 22, (name changed) hailing from a remote village in Tiruvannamalai is battling against all odds for survival. Her school teachers had hoped that she would secure the first rank in the district in 10th standard in 2010.

When the studious and talented girl was in the 9th standard and suffered joint pain in 2009, doctors in the rural terrain diagnosed that she was suffering from energy deficiency and gave her medicine to boost her energy. However, Ambika, daughter of a farmer, continued to face pain for several months. Doctors in Chennai suspected it to be dengue fever and treated her for it. In December 2009, her vision was affected and she became colour blind. Following this, she was rushed to a reputed eye hospital in Chennai and a famous neurologist found that she was affected by the rare multiple sclerosis (MS) disease. Since then, life has been hell for her.

Recalling her ordeal with the ailment, Ambika said, “I used to secure 100 marks in Mathematics in the 9th standard.

Everyone in the school hoped that I would be a topper in the 10th standard final examination. I remember writing the first test in the 10th standard final examination in April 2010. Subsequently I cannot remember what happened to me and my memory is lost.” Despite all odds, she secured 280 marks out of 500. Even as she pursued with 10+2, she continued to battle with the disease. She was often unconscious and unable to control her motion and urine. After vision in the left eye was corrected, vision in the right eye was affected. It was cured for a few months after expensive treatment. After regular treatment, things worsened and she faced a relapse every six months. Gradually, vision in her left eye was lost and later too in the right eye.

After completing HSC, she joined BE (ECE) but was not able to complete the course. She said, “Due to lack of awareness about the nature and cruelty of the disease, my family members were reluctant to take me to the hospital for treatment. As a result I have lost vision in both eyes. Now my vision is blurred.” She says, “None should suffer from this ailment and adequate awareness must be raised about MS among people and the medical fraternity.

Similarly, 40-year old Mumtaz Begam (name changed) from Chennai fell down in the house in 2010. Begam, the mother of two teenage boys, saw her left leg becoming numb and was unable to move. Initially doctors thought it was a neurological issue. However, later they found that she was suffering from multiple sclerosis. After getting almost cured, she had a relapse in 2017. Every fifteen days, she is administered an injection that costs about `25,000. The treatment will continue forever, she says.

Thanks to support from the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India, Ambika and Begam are receiving the right treatment. Even though there is no cure for the ailment, they can manage it with lifelong medication.

Explaining about the disease Ann Gonsalvez of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India, Chennai chapter, says, “Our body contains a fatty substance - myelin, which surrounds and protects nerve fibres of the brain and spinal cord in the same way that insulation protects electrical wires. Whey any part of the myelin sheathing is destroyed, nerve impulses to the brain are interrupted and distorted. The result is multiple sclerosis (scars). It is called multiple because many scattered areas of the brain and spinal cord are affected. And it is also called sclerosis because sclerosed or hardened patches of scar tissues form over the damaged myelin. Researchers are still not clear over the reasons for its occurrence.”

She said that besides extending financial assistance to people affected by MS, the Society has been providing them medicine free of cost. The Society has been conducting workshops to raise awareness about the ailments for doctors and detect it at the initial stage itself. We are treating about 260 registered patients in Tamil Nadu for several years. She said that the Central and state governments must come forward to help these patients.

Famous neurologist MR Sivakumar said “MS is a global disease affecting more than 2 million people across the world.

It usually affects people in the age group of 18 to 40 years. More women than men are affected by MS, the ratio being 1 man to 3 women. One to 21 persons among a population of 10000 are affected by the disease in the world. Due to the development of science and technology, treatments are now available which can modify the course of the disease, he added.

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