Multiple sclerosis patients across the UAE and beyond have a new resource to help guide them through their MS journey, thanks to a website launched by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health.
Caused by inflammation in the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, multiple sclerosis (MS) can cause vision problems, muscle weakness, numbness, and a variety of other symptoms. Most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, multiple sclerosis is twice as common among women than men. While there is no cure yet, the vast majority of cases can be managed with medications that help stop inflammation, control symptoms and effectively slow the progression of the disease.
“Multiple sclerosis is certainly a condition on the rise both here in the UAE and globally. It usually strikes in the prime of life, causing a great deal of anxiety and anguish. With early diagnosis, and the right treatment, most can go on to live a normal life. I have seen some of my patients do amazing things that even someone without their diagnosis might balk at,” says Dr. Anu Jacob, a neurologist and director of the multiple sclerosis department at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Neurological Institute.
The new website, in both English and Arabic, offers patients and their families practical advice on a range of topics in simple and easy to understand language on symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, and lifestyle as well as exercise and diet. The site also provides support materials and curated external links for physicians and the wider MS community in the UAE.
“The level of care on offer to MS patients in the UAE is on par with some of the best medical destinations in the world. One gap we noticed is that despite the growing community of people affected by MS, the online resources and support available have not kept up. I hope this website will serve as a foundation to help patients across the region find unbiased information that can guide their decisions. We believe that arming patients with knowledge will help them make the right choices in managing their MS. Seeing they are not alone and engaging with the experiences of other MS patients will strengthen and inspire them to fulfill their own potential,” continues Dr. Jacob.
In addition to medication to stop inflammation, slow progression and stop symptoms of the disease, the team at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Neurological Institute provides a holistic approach to managing patients with multiple sclerosis. This ranges from psychological support and smoking cessation programs to physical therapy and exercise tips.
“The most common form of multiple sclerosis we see, particularly in our younger patients, is what we call ‘relapsing-remitting’ meaning that patients experience a flare-up of symptoms periodically. This form of the disease responds well to lifestyle changes that, when made alongside the right medication, can prolong remission and reduce symptoms – dramatically improving quality of life,” says Dr. Jacob.
Some of the most noticeable effects of multiple sclerosis include muscle weakness, loss of balance and difficulty walking. Regular exercise, including stretching and progressive strength training helps to keep muscles strong and retain physical function.
“A lot of people think that exercising with MS is difficult or even dangerous. In fact, it is the opposite. The right amount of exercise that improves strength, endurance, balance and flexibility can be a huge help. One tip we always share is not to push too hard. Over exertion may sometimes worsen symptoms, so keeping the right pace is crucial,” says Vinodh Ravindran, a multiple sclerosis certified specialist physiotherapist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
As part of its commitment to elevating the level of care and improving quality of life for people with MS, Cleveland clinic Abu Dhabi has ongoing research projects looking at how certain medications might be used to further improve quality of life for patients.
“Multiple sclerosis can be treated and treated extremely well right here in the UAE. Although it is a diagnosis for life, there are a whole host of approaches we can take to limit its impact and allow people to lead a normal life. I always put myself in my patients’ shoes. If I had MS, I would want my condition explained to me clearly and be supported in choosing the right treatment by a team that takes all my circumstances into account. After that, apart from the occasional hospital visits for treatments and appointments, I would want to be able to forget about MS and get on with my life with the confidence that my team will be there if I need them. That is what I want for our patients. MS should not define them,” concludes Dr. Jacob.
As part of its World MS Day activities this month, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Neurological Institute also hosted an informative webinar and Q&A session today on living a healthy life with MS and the impact of COVID-19 on patients with the condition.