RIYADH, 6 January — A survey on the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in the Kingdom will be undertaken by King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Hospital in collaboration with other hospitals.
This was disclosed by Dr. Hatem Murad, neurology consultant and chairman of the organizing committee of the Alzheimer’s symposium, at the start of a two-day international symposium at KFSH yesterday.
Professors in neurology from Harvard University, the University of Johns Hopkins and the University of Cleveland are participating in the seminar, which will discuss various aspects of Alzheimer’s disease that affects both genders of all ethnic groups and progresses with advancing age.
Besides overseas experts, other participants include KFSH specialists Dr. Fahad Al-Mohaileb and Dr. Ayman Refaii, Jordan’s former Minister of Health Ashraf Al-Kurdi, and specialists from other hospitals in Riyadh.
Dr. Murad said cases of Alzheimer’s disease are already prevalent in the Kingdom. However, in the absence of any registry, the number of cases could not be documented. Therefore, the first step in this direction will be the registration of such patients as they check into the hospitals.
Besides old age, he pointed out that accidents could also trigger the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
"Head trauma is a risk factor, but the main risk factor is old age. In the Kingdom, the aged represent the fastest growing segment of the Saudi population, although it is still the smallest in terms of the demographic size. So things will be different in the next 20 years."
Underlining the significance of the seminar, the first of its kind in the Arab world, Dr. Murad said Alzheimer’s disease had been neglected in the past.
However, with the growth in the Kingdom’s aging population, the hospital was trying to create an awareness of the disease by undertaking research and conducting seminars.
Dr. Murad said the aged, especially those above 60, constitute an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the Kingdom’s population of 22 million. "A lot of research is being conducted abroad to determine the cause of this disease among the aged section of the society. Hopefully, in future, we may even find a cure for it," he observed.
According to Dr. Murad, the neuroscience department and the Research Center at KFSH will spearhead the campaign on Alzheimer’s disease. He said they will also carry out an epidemiological study to determine the dimensions of the problem in the Kingdom.
The project will be undertaken in conjunction with other hospitals as part of in-house research. "We will also improve our laboratory, clinical and research facilities," he added.