East and West relief set after MS increases

Local | Yupina Ng 26 Jan 2016

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has launched a pilot program to manage fatigue and cognitive deficits associated with multiple sclerosis and related disorders in 100 patients using Chinese and Western medicine.

It comes amid increasing evidence that the demyelination disease in the central nervous system could lead to disability.

Associate professor of medicine and therapeutics Alexander Lau Yuk-lun said the prevalence of multiple sclerosis has increased from 4.8 per 100,000 in 2008 to 6.8 last year, an increase of 40 percent.

About 500 people were diagnosed with the disease in Hong Kong last year, with 70 percent of them female.

Its cause remains unknown but Lau believes the disease occurs when the immune system attacks insulating covers of nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.

Currently, oral medications and infusion biologics can prevent relapses, but more than 80 percent will still suffer from fatigue and 50 percent from cognitive deficits, both of which are difficult to treat with Western medicine.

"Once the nerves fail to transmit signals properly, respective functions are disrupted," Lau said.

"That results in a wide range of symptoms, including blurred vision, muscle weakness, memory loss and bladder difficulties. The symptoms are difficult to treat. The physical impairment disables patients' mobility, problem-solving skills and self- care ability, resulting in a poorer quality of life."

Professional consultant William Cheung Hoi- Ngai, of the university's Hong Kong Institute of Integrative Medicine, said both Chinese medicine and acupuncture will be used to manage symptoms.

"Traditional Chinese medicine aims to balance the body's condition, and acupuncture is an effective treatment modality in mind-refreshing, dredging meridians, relieving numbness and improving coordination," he said.

Selected patients will receive an eight-week prescription of Western and Chinese medication, including a daily herbal medicine with suitable patients also receiving twice-a-week acupuncture treatment.

A first consultation will cost HK$450.

Before the program launch, about 20 patients had received the integrative medical care jointly managed by neurologists, Chinese medicine practitioners and nurses.

Don Kwok Ho-lun, 26 was diagnosed with the disease in 2014, but his vision and speech has improved since the new treatment.

"I had blurred vision, muscle weakness and slurred speech before," he said.

Kwok added that since taking the new treatment he has regained normal vision and his speech has improved.

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