ibnlive » Health

Mar 18, 2013 at 05:55pm IST

Neurological disabilities hit 3.5 million Indians every year

New Delhi: To what's being called India's hidden epidemic, neurological disabilities hit 3.5 million people every year. The Kessler Foundation estimates there are 7 cases in India every minute, with people left unable to function on their own, even walk, like in spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries.

"Neurological disability is a huge disability. The person can't eat on his own; he can't wear his own clothes. There is depression, there is psychosis, there is cognition involvement, they cannot remember, think, plan, perform," AIIMS Neurologist Dr Manjari Tripathi said.

For adults, there are three main causes:

- Stroke which leads to half a million new cases every year, has doubled in the past 4 decades.

- Age-related dementia with 1.6 million new cases every year expected to triple in by 2050.

- And the biggest cause, traumatic brain injury, mainly from road accidents, adds 1.7 million cases every year. A whopping 60-70 per cent of these are due to road traffic accidents.

With patients in need of sustained physiotherapy, the emphasis also needs to be on immediate first aid.

"Close to 1 million patients will lose out because of head injuries. The biggest need of the hour is to have a strong and efficient paramedic team. It does not take a lot of time to train. We need to develop very good life support systems which can reach the patient at the sites," AIIMS Neurosurgeon Dr Sarat Chandra said.

Even more of a challenge, according to Dr Manjari Tripathi, is young children who develop neurological disabilities because of childhood infections, lack of safe delivery practices and even malnutrition.

"The childhood infections that can lead to permanent brain damage are meningitis, which is very common, encephalitis, we have outbreaks of encephalitis. During birth if there is lack of oxygen to the brain, it can cause permanent brain damage. Seizures and epilepsy which occur in this age group can cause brain damage," Dr Manjari Tripathi said.

An estimated 70 to 80 per cent of people who need treatment don't get it, even though the new disability draft law has some provisions.