Nepal | January 16, 2021

Parkinson’s disease: Awareness is the key

Banita Khanal
Share Now:

Most people who have Parkinson’s live a normal to nearly normal life, but the disease can be life changing. For some people, treatment keeps the symptoms at bay, and they’re mostly mild while for others, the disease is much more serious

Illustration: Ratna Sagar Shrestha/THT

Parkinson’s disease is an illness that affects the part of the brain which controls the movement of our body. It can come on so slowly that we don’t even notice it at first. But over time, what starts as a little shakiness in our hand can have an impact on how we walk, talk, sleep and think. In the past, it used to be considered an old-age disease but nowadays more and more young people are being diagnosed with the condition.

There’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but we can get treatment and support to help manage the symptoms. The common symptoms of Parkinson’s are: slowness, rigidity, unbalanced body and tremors.

Deep down in brain, there’s an area called the substantia nigra. Some of its cells make dopamine, a chemical that carries messages around the brain. When we have Parkinson’s, the cells of the substantia nigra start to die. So, our dopamine levels drop and we can’t fire off as many messages to control our body. Early on, we won’t notice anything different. But as more and more cells die, we reach a tipping point where we start to have symptoms. That may not be until 80 per cent of the cells are gone, which is why we can have Parkinson’s for quite a while before we realise it.

Doctors aren’t sure why all those brain cells start dying. They think it’s a mix of our genes and something in the environment, but the reason is not straightforward. Someone could have a change in a gene tied to Parkinson’s, but never get the disease. That happens a lot. And a bunch of people could work side by side in a place with chemicals linked to Parkinson’s, but only a few of them end up with it.

There’s no one test for Parkinson’s. A lot of it is based on the symptoms and health history, but it could take some time to figure it out. And part of the process is ruling out other conditions that look like Parkinson’s. That’s one reason it’s important to go to a doctor who knows a lot about it. The treatment for Parkinson’s is all about managing symptoms. Drugs for Parkinson’s can often help with tremors, stiff muscles and slow movements. In some cases, surgery might be needed.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a treatment for symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including tremors, stiffness and trouble walking. It can also treat side effects of Parkinson’s medicines. DBS isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s and won’t stop it from getting worse. But it may be an option if you’ve had the disease at least five years and don’t get enough relief from medicine. For some people, DBS is life-changing. For others, the results aren’t as good.

Most people who have Parkinson’s live a normal to a nearly normal lifespan, but the disease can be life changing. For some people, treatment keeps the symptoms at bay, and they’re mostly mild. For others, the disease is much more serious. As it gets worse, it makes it harder and harder to do daily activities like getting out of bed, driving or going to work. Even writing can seem like a tough task. And in later stages, it can cause dementia.

Nepal lacks proper data on Parkinson’s disease diagnosis. No research for collecting data has been carried out yet. According to Dr Baburam Pokhrel, a neurologist at Mediciti Hospital, four-five patients are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each day by him. Similarly, Dr Pankaj Jalan, also a neurologist at Norvic International Hospital, says number of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease has increased in recent days.

Though a neuro-related disease, Parkinson’s affects a person so badly that s/he becomes invisibly disable. The government of Nepal recognises Parkinson’s disease as a fourth degree disability. The government has also introduced a provision to reimburse medical expenses up to Rs 100,000 each to patients through hospitals that have been listed with the government for the programme.

But unfortunately, only a handful of patients have been able to benefit from this government programme. Only a few hospitals have been listed with the government for the programme, and secondly, those which are listed are not providing the service properly.

To get the government support, a patient must present his/ her diagnosis prescription, recommendation from the respective ward, copy of citizenship certificate to the District Health Office, which then sends the recommendation to the hospital. After that the hospital would provide free treatment up to Rs 100,000 to the patient.

A non- profit organisation named Parkinson’s Nepal has recently been registered for raising awareness about the disease. Parkinson Nepal has already done a lot of programs related to awareness. April was Parkinson’s awareness month. Like in other parts of the world, Parkinson Nepal also organised the Run for Parkinson’s, a five-kilometre run for raising awareness about the disease.

Actor Madan Krishna Shrestha, a patient himself, is also on the advisory board of this organisation. Parkinson Nepal has also made a documentary “Living with Parkinson’s” which has the story of four patients including Shrestha’s.

A lot still more needs to be done to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease in Nepal. There is also a need of attitudinal change among the members of the society when it comes to the disease. Parkinson’s patients need support and care; they should not be made an object of neglect.

Khanal is founder of Parkinson’s Nepal


A version of this article appears in print on May 25, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

First Arab Ama Dablam Expedition makes successful attempt on Thursday

KATHMANDU: A team from Seven Summit Treks ‘First Arab Ama Dablam Expedition’ comprising Qatari climber Fahad Badar, Sherief Elabd from Eygpt and Nadhira Al Harthy from Oman have attempted Mt Ama Dablam (6812 m) on January 14. The winter ascent to Ama dablam consisted of at least 14 climbers w Read More...

Biden unveils $1.9T plan to stem COVID-19 and steady economy

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE: President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan Thursday to end “a crisis of deep human suffering” by speeding up vaccines and pumping out financial help to those struggling with the pandemic’s prolonged economic fallout. Called the “American Read More...

Mobile data users abandoning Ncell for NT

KATHMANDU, JANUARY 14 Mobile data users in the country are increasingly abandoning Ncell and subscribing state-owned Nepal Telecom. At least that is what the data compiled by Nepal Telecommunications Authority reveals. According to the Management Information System of NTA, 60 per cent of the t Read More...

Rival NCP factions hold standing committee meetings

KATHMANDU, JANUARY 14 Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal held its Standing Committee meeting and discussed ways to effectively carry out its protest programme against dissolution of the House of Representatives. NCP (Dahal-Nepal) Spokesperson Naryan Ka Read More...

Security personnel of Khotang District Police Office destroy cannabis planted illegally by the locals in Durchim VDC of Khotang district on Monday, December 21, 2015. Photo: RSS

Cops intensify drive to destroy cannabis, opium plants

KATHMANDU, JANUARY 14 Nepal Police destroyed cannabis and opium plants cultivated in a large swathe of land across the country in the fiscal year 2019-20, according to an annual report recently released by the Ministry of Home Affairs. According to the report, cannabis plants being cultivated Read More...

WHO supports member countries to end COVID-19 pandemic

KATHMANDU, JANUARY 14 Member countries in the World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region are gearing up for massive vaccination campaigns in a bid to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The WHO South-East Asia Region has 11 member countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic o Read More...

Bhattarai calls for decisive agitation

DAMAULI, JANUARY 14 Janata Samaj Party-Nepal Federal Council Chairperson Baburam Bhattarai has stressed the need of a decisive struggle to protect democracy and the constitution. Accusing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of putting the constitution and democracy at risk by dissolving the Parliamen Read More...

Locals protest East-West Railway survey

BARA, JANUARY 14 The locals have protested a survey of the East-West Railway in Bara. The locals were up in arms after a survey was done affecting the main settlement in the bazaar area of Nijgadh Municipality. According to the survey team Incharge Suraj Poudel, the locals impeded the d Read More...