Pune: Doctors from the city said 25 per cent cases of Alzheimer or dementia go undiagnosed mostly because of a lack of awareness. They were speaking on the occasion of World Alzheimer’s Day, which is observed globally on September 21.
Old age is commonly associated with disorders such as high blood pressure and heart diseases. Along with this problem, it also leads to the slowing of the brain functions. Memory lapse is the commonest brain dysfunction that people notice and are aware of. However, the attribution of memory lapse to old age commonly masks the onset of dementia.
Dr Ninad Baste from Tapas Elder Care Centre and President of the Indian Psychiatric Society, Pune Chapter, said the tendency to normalise the memory disturbances by the patient and the family and also a lack of awareness of the other symptoms of dementia leads to a delay in diagnosis of dementia.
“An estimated over 25 per cent cases remain undiagnosed. Globally, India houses the second most number of individuals suffering from dementia with an estimated 4.1 million people suffering from it, as per the Dementia India report published by the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India. This is expected to double by 2035. Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh alone are expected to house over 5,00,000 patients by 2026, which is alarming,” said Baste.
Speaking to Sakal Times regarding the early symptoms, Dr Bhushan Joshi, Consultant Neurologist, Columbia Asia Hospital said, “Memory loss, trouble with language skills and increased irritability are usually the early symptoms. However, due of its degenerative nature the disease leads to worst form of dementia with loss of basic motor skills, occurrence of hallucinations, difficulties eating or walking without help and becoming increasingly frail.”
He added that the patient slowly drifts further and further apart from his family, friends and even his natural self. “The rate, at which the disease advances, differs from person to person. The average life expectancy after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease ranges from three to eight years and depends in part on how impaired the person is at the time of diagnosis. Survival also relates to age at onset of symptoms,” said Joshi.
Manjit Santre, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Sassoon General Hospital (SGH), Pune, said SGH reports one case of Alzheimer’s every day.
“When it comes to mental illnesses, there is a lack of awareness about it in our country. The disease like Alzheimer’s cannot get noticed by the family members immediately. Only when things start worsening that they approach a doctor. People quite often think the cause of behavioural change is old age. They fail to notice that it can be one of the mental illnesses. But there are many cases, which go unreported. Much needs to be done to spread awareness about it,” he added.