ABu dhabi // Hospitals in the UAE must use their specialists properly or risk losing out on vital research into Parkinson's and other degenerative diseases, an expert says.
At present, movement disorder specialists in government hospitals are used in the same way as general neurologists.
"To me, it is a big waste of their talent," Dr D Maxwell Kayed, a neurologist at the Dubai Neurology Service, told a forum in Abu Dhabi last week.
None of the small number of neurologists worldwide who specialise in treating Parkinson's disease practise in the UAE or conduct research here.
"Let's start with one," Dr Kayed said. "You start with one, then you go from there. It is that simple."
There is also no official data on the disease, he said.
"It's under-diagnosed," Dr Kayed said. "There is already a need for sub-specialist neurologists."
Philippe Damier, a professor of neurology at the University of Nantes in France who also attended the forum, said: "You have many different neurological diseases, so when you have a population large enough with the disease it's worth it to have some[one] highly specialised."
While a general neurologist can diagnose and treat the disease, a specialist is needed for complex and unusual cases, Dr Kayed said. Research would also help to indicate patterns in the UAE and highlight problem areas.
Dr Nazar Al Douri, a specialist neurologist at Tawam Hospital in Al Ain, said the number of Parkinson's patients he saw seemed to be on par with the rest of the world.
Dr Al Douri agreed that people in the region, especially Arabs, needed to be made more aware of how to spot the symptoms.
"In the Arabic language, Parkinson's disease is translation for paralysis agitans," he said.
"Paralysis means handicapped and agitans means movement, so people in the Arab world think that Parkinson's always means tremors, that there is abnormal movement and that they are shaking. But this isn't the case."
Early symptoms include losing the ability to swing arms naturally when walking, Dr Al Douri said.
Other symptoms of the disease, for which there is no cure, include stiffness and instability.