To the readers of my blog. I had started this blog to disseminate information about neurological and neurosurgical conditions. Information which was written in a simple easy to understand language (aka free of medical jargon). Over the past 2 years, the readers of my blog started writing in to me with specific questions regarding their own health or that of a loved one.
While I attempt to answer these requests responsibly (please remember the Internet is no place to diagnose your condition and nothing quite replaces a face to face visit with your physician), what concerns me is that some of you are writing in and putting your MRI reports and medical record information in the email. Privacy concerns are paramount and hence I request you to refrain from doing this. Also in your email, please remove any information which might identify you.
Things on the Internet stay for ever and can be misused. So a humble request, protect your private information!!!
Please do read my disclaimer. The purpose of my blog is purely educational and to disseminate information about neurological and neurosurgical diseases and condition. It is not meant to diagnose yourself over the Internet.
The information provided in this blog should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 if you have a medical emergency.
Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute my endorsements of those sites.
Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Nitin Sethi, MD
Is aging normal or abnormal/pathological? No one quite knows the answer to that question. What we do know is that as we age, neurological disorders become increasingly common. These may range from well defined neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers dementia, Parkinson disease and amyotophic lateral sclerosis to other less well defined conditions like gait disorders, “balance problems”, “forgetfulness and senior moments” and increased propensity to falls. Strokes become more common in the aged brain vessels.
As life expectancy increases and more and more people live past the eight decade, neurological conditions become common and account for substantial morbidity and mortality in the oldest old (above 85). Earlier when the life expectancy was in the 60s, we did not see so much Alzheimers dementia, Parkinson’s disease or brain tumors. People died of other “natural” and “unnatural” causes before the brain showed clinical manifestations of neurodegeneration.
Is it the norm that as we age, a substantial majority of us are destined to develop dementia? Clinical studies have clearly shown that Alzhemier disease pathology increases with age and the incidence of the disease becomes increasingly common as one goes past 85 (the oldest old). Other studies suggest that though not all the oldest old show clinical dementia, a substantial majority have cognitive difficulties if carefully tested for at the bedside.
Why do neurological conditions become more “common” as we age and can we do anything to alter this? Many theories have been propounded. Increased amyloid deposition in the brain has causal association with Alzheimers dementia, in the same vein deposition of iron in the basal ganglia has been postulated to cause various basal ganglia pathology. There is increased oxidative stress in the “aged” brain which leads to free radical formation and damage to the cellular DNA. Genes get switched off or on triggering the disease process. A lot still needs to be learned about the neurology of aging.
While the mechanisms are still been elucidated, is there anything which we can do to change our “risks”. In the absence of good studies most of the data is open to interpretation. Aspirin prophylaxis, modification of microvascular and macrovascular risk factors like hypertension, diabetes mellitis and dyslipidemia (high “bad” cholesterol) all seem to be reasonable interventions. Obesity and sedentary life styles are bad for the brain too. Regular physical as well as brain exercises (neurobics) keeps the brain healthy and increases neuronal reserve. The role of anti-oxidants like coenzyme Q10 and alpha lipoic acid is still been defined. As they are relatively innocuous and free from side-effects, I would recommend them on a case by case basis. Episodes of major depression “hurt” the brain and aggressive treatment with anti-depressants should be initiated early rather than late.
The neurology of aging remains an uncharted territory but there is hope yet.
Nitin Sethi, MD
I originally wanted to publish this in the New York Times as I wrote it primarily for patients and care-givers. They did not accept it. It seems they rather devote a page to which model makes how much money or who is dating who rather than publish something like this. I always wanted this to be freely accessible to patients and care-givers. That is the reason I started this blog and my website http://braindiseases.info in the first place. It is my way of giving back to my patients. I owe a lot to them and they are my first and foremost teachers. The article is hopefully going to appear in the Internet Journal of Neurology soon. Here is a small piece of the article. I cannot publish the entire piece as then I would be in copyright violation.
When and how to seek a second opinion-a patient’s perspective
NK Sethi 1, PK Sethi 2
1 Department of Neurology, Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, NY (U.S.A.)
2 Department of Neurology, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi (India)
Address for Correspondence:
NK Sethi, MD
Department of Neurology
Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center
525 East, 68th Street
New York, NY 10021 (U.S.A.)
There are times when a second opinion is not only appropriate, its necessary. This is true both from the patient’s as well as the doctor’s perspective. Since the patient technically has more to lose, it is imperative that patient’s know when and how to seek a second opinion. This is more significant in clinical neurology especially when one is handed down a diagnosis of a neurodegenerative condition like young onset Parkinson’s or Huntington’s disease. Diagnosis of a disease like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is essentially like signing off on a death sentence. Patients and caregivers are distraught and may not know what to do. Some may trust their doctor and agree to his or her management plan. But what if he is wrong? Maybe there is something out there that may help me. Maybe my doctor does not know about it. Even if the diagnosis is correct some may not be comfortable with the line of care. It is at times like these that the question of seeking a second opinion crops up.