A specialist physician at Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital is drawing attention to Parkinson’s Disease, which according to her, is becoming prevalent among Ghanaian youth.
Dr Vida Obese says people between 20 and 30 years in Ghana are reporting symptoms of what is perceived as a disease for the aged.
“Parkinson’s has always been seen as the disease of the elderly but we have patients who are in their 20’s and 30’s being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Worldwide, we don’t know the causes of Parkinson’s disease,” she pointed out.
The Founder of Anidaso Parkinson’s Foundation spoke at a continuous professional development session by Society of Family Physicians of Ghana in Kumasi.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes, with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand.
Tremors are common, but the disorder also commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
“In our local dialect, it’s called ‘awoso yare’. There is a chemical substance in the brain called dopamine which helps the body to move around. When cells in the brain get destroyed and not been able to produce it then Parkinson's set in,” a consultant neurologist, KATH, Dr Stephen Sarfo explained.
World Health Organisation identifies Parkinson disease as one of the most common neurologic disorders. It afflicts, approximately, one per cent ( 1% ) of persons older than 60 years.
About 10 million people worldwide are living with the disease. Though research is yet to reveal the official prevalence rate in Ghana, it is estimated to be the third leading diagnosed neurological disease.
Age, heredity and environmental factors are all implicated in the causes of Parkinson’s. Though patients have reported relief with cannabis usage, Dr Sarfo warned it is no treatment for the disease.
He explains the substance is regulatorily employed only at certain stages.
“If you have Parkinson’s, your treatment is not cannabis, but levodopa cannabis may help in some part of your treatment but not the primary treatment. So don’t go and smoke cannabis thinking you’d want to cure Parkinson’s, you’ll go crazy,” he cautioned.
The National Health Insurance Scheme absorbs part of the cost of treatment. Specialist Family Physician and Rehabilitation specialist, Dr Abena Tannor, proposes full state support of medications and rehabilitation of patients.
“For those who can’t afford, can there be more subsidies on medications and free rehabilitation so they can fully be taken care of?” she pleaded.
She also urged the community to learn more about the disease in order to properly take care of patients.
Dr Tannor added, “the patient need holistic care. The family had to get involved, it’s not about just giving monies to caretakers; in that sense, the patient does not feel lonely.”
The programme is aimed at creating awareness of the condition. It attracted rehab specialist, support groups and members in the Northern part of Ghana.
President of Society of Family Physicians, Dr Emmanuel Ati believes the programme will equip participants with requisite skills to handle such conditions.
“We want them to be aware this disease is common in our environment. As the first point of call, we believe we are well-placed to give comprehensive care to such patients and, especially, conditions which have been neglected,” he said.