Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Middle East’s first-ever multiple sclerosis (MS) patient forum will take place this weekend, it was announced at the launch of the MS awareness bus tour today at Rashid Hospital.
Following the creation of the region-first national MS task force to tackle the disease earlier this year by the Emirates Neurology Society (EMINS), the MS awareness bus tour’s first stop following the launch was Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC) in the nations’ capital, where task force members and doctors met with patients, families and the public to highlight the plight of MS sufferers across the country.
“We’re pleased to be collaborating with hospitals in the UAE to raise awareness around MS, and an awareness tour across the Emirates from Dubai, to Abu Dhabi, to Al Ain and Sharjah allows us as healthcare professionals to collaborate and share knowledge with each other and with patients, to ensure all UAE residents continue to be at the forefront of treatment and support options,” said Dr. Suzan Nouri, Consultant Neurologist at Rashid Hospital, and a member of EMINS.
“The patient forum on 30 March will be the first-ever gathering of MS patients from all of the participating hospitals, joining together to discuss their treatment and quality of life with others, and especially with health care professionals,” she added.
Following the first stop at SKMC today, the tour will continue to Tawam Hospital, Al Ain Hospital, Kuwaiti Hospital and Qassimi Hospital over 28 and 29 March.
The tour will conclude with an MS healthcare professional forum, following the first-ever patient forum on 30 March at Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai, from 10am to 3pm.
“This type of cross-institutional cooperation is how we will be able to really drive increased awareness for MS in the country, not just from the public but also across medical institutions and professionals. It really is a shared responsibility for all in the medical community to facilitate MS patients leading normal, healthy and happy lives,” said Dr Taoufik Al Saadi, Senior Consultant and Head of Neurology, SKMC.
In a previous message of support, Dr. Ali Shakar, President of the Emirates Medical Association said: “Healthcare in the UAE is excellent, and that is a position which we in the professional medical community intend to maintain long into the future. Promoting improved disease awareness is a critical step toward ensuring that all UAE residents continue to receive truly world-class medical care.”
MS is a nervous system disease with no known cause that affects the brain and spinal cord. MS damages the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve cells which slows down or blocks messages between the brain and the body, leading to the symptoms of MS: these include visual disturbances, muscle weakness, trouble with coordination and balance, sensations such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles", and thinking and memory problems.
“MS can occur at any age, but it most often presents in people between the ages of 20 and 40 – some of the most productive years of any person’s life. With access to the right information, suitable treatment, and awareness and understanding from the public, many patients can live normal lives,” said Dr. Tayseer Mohamed Zain Elabdin Ali, Senior Consultant and Head of Neurology Department at Al Qassimi Hospital, Sharjah.
The UAE MS taskforce is composed of neurologists, nurses, patients, rehabilitation specialists, and psychologists, and will embark upon a year-long campaign of tours, speaking events, fundraising, and other awareness activities.
With as many as 1,000 reported MS sufferers in the UAE, the taskforce and year-long campaign activities are set to help improve the quality of life and medication compliance for many of those affected with the disease.
Research figures show MS affects around 25 to 50 people in 100,000 in Arabic populations and about 100 per 100,000 in Northern Europeans who display the highest risk of MS across the world, with prevalence seeming to increase with further distance from the equator .
Globally, MS affects women more than men  and often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease can be mild but some people lose the ability to write, speak or walk. There is no cure for MS, but medicines can slow disease progression and help control symptoms.