By Naomi Sharang,
Medical experts posit that neurological disorders are diseases of the brain, spine and the nerves that connect them.
They note that the disorders can affect nervous system, resulting in brain tumours, epilepsy, cerebral palsy (physical disability involving movement problems) and Parkinson’s disease, among others.
However, some medical experts believe that neurological diseases don’t just affect adults but admit that some babies are born with neurological disorders.
Worried by some recent reports that such disorders are rampant among children, Dr Denis Shatima, Paediatric Neurologist at the National Hospital, Abuja, called for pragmatic approach to fighting the disorders.
He noted that the common cause of the disorders in Nigeria was birth asphyxia (a condition of severely deficient supply of oxygen to the body that arises from abnormal breathing).
“Asphyxia is a situation whereby a child is delivered and is unable to initiate spontaneous breathing.
“Unexpected events in the womb and unexpected events at the time of delivery could also lead to the malformation of the brain,’’ he said.
He observed that some parents were fond of taking jaundiced infants for granted by not paying adequate medical attention to the condition.
Shatima cautioned against such attitude, insisting that jaundice in a child could damage the brains of the affected infants and predispose them to neurological disorders.
According to him, infants with cerebral palsy will not be able to walk, coordinate, grasp and transfer objects from one hand to the other.
He observed that a child would be suspected to have the disorder if he had altered physical features.
He, therefore, urged stakeholders in health sector to facilitate better medical services that would encourage scanning of pregnant women earlier to detect any deformity in foetus.
“In advanced countries, they scan to find out if there are some subtle abnormalities and they can detect these among the unborn baby,” he said.
He, nonetheless, advised that the treatment of infants born with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders should involve experienced physiotherapists, orthopaedic doctor, child psychologist, dietician and special educationists.
In her opinion, Mrs Joan Obieke, Assistant Director, Physiotherapy Department, National Hospital, Abuja, urged women to eat healthy and take folic acid as recommended by their physicians.
She noted that folic acid would boost brain development, advising that improved prenatal care could reduce the burden of cerebral palsy.
She also called for the training and re-training of health workers and traditional birth attendants to reduce incidences of neurological disorders.
Obieke said some researchers pointed out the consequences of neurological disorders to include a significant burden on the family, the community and the affected individuals.
Quoting a research work, she said enormous stigma attached to epilepsy often led to the patient’s being denied access to proper care.
She said the research showed that among brain disorders, epilepsy was prominent because of the myths and beliefs attached to it in various cultures.
“Epilepsy commonly attacks children and young adults in the most productive years of their lives, frequently leading to unemployment.
“This complicates the problems of the afflicted and the family that relies on their financial support,” she said, quoting the research paper.
To address neurological disorders effectively, experts insist that governments and health authorities of developing countries such as Nigeria should issue clear policies articulating measures for the identification and treatment of infants with neurological disorders.
According to them, essential components of any strategy are continuous drug supply, prevention programmes and stigma mitigation strategies, among others, to increase employment and improve the general welfare of the affected adults.
They also observe that clinical neuroscientists should be part of the teams that would address the issues of the health care systems in Africa to ensure proper attention on prevention, recognition, treatment and rehabilitation of brain disorders.
“Wide spectrum of neurological disorders occurs in our environment and the high incidence of epilepsy and cerebral palsy suggests that effort should be geared towards educating the populace about early diagnosis and prompt management,’’ they insist.
Irrespective of any approach to addressing neurological disorders, the World Health Organisation (WHO), says “improvement in mental health services doesn’t require sophisticated and expensive technologies.
“What is required is increasing the capacity of the primary health care system for delivery of an integrated package of care.’’
Dr Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General for Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health at WHO says the organisation, in collaboration with other partners, will provide technical support for the implementation of the guidelines for the package.
According to him, the organisation has initiated a programme for scaling up the care in Nigeria, Ethiopia, Jordan, Panama, Sierra Leone and Solomon Islands for effective fight against the disorders.(NANFeatures)