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Hypertension, diabetes, cancer: COVID crisis disrupts treatment of non-communicable diseases

Srinagar: COVID 19 crisis has significantly disrupted the treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the valley.

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) include cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, there has been a partial or complete disruption of services for people with high blood pressure and diabetes.

A senior resident doctor at SMHS said a lot of patients coming to the emergency ward have reported accelerated hypertension, seizures and intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH) (caused by bleeding within the brain tissue itself — a life-threatening stroke).

 “The hypertensive patients usually got their blood pressure levels checked at the nearby dispensaries in their vicinity or chemist shops. That way, they remained cautious of their health developments,” he said.

 He noted that in the present situation, many of the patients reported at the hospital have not kept a track of their blood pressure and sugar levels or stopped the medicines altogether.

“In some cases, the patients from far-flung areas had not taken adequate medicines and constant skipping of follow-ups has aggravated their illness,” he said.

Senior Endocrinologist, SMHS hospital, Dr Hayat Bhat said the impact of Covid-19 on non-communicable diseases will increase by the day.

“We are going to see more complications in the future. There are many diabetic and hypertensive patients who have not gone for their scheduled follow-ups,” he said.

He pointed out that the constant postponement or deferring follow-ups can lead to uncontrolled hypertension and diabetes.

“This can again lead to something worse in diabetic patients. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can harm their kidneys,” Dr Hayat said.

 He said the patients are not able to use teleconsultations mode efficiently.

 “The patients need to be first trained on teleconsultation. I feel the patients with emergencies are left out amid a barrage of calls,” he said.

Senior endocrinologist at SKIMS, Dr Ashraf Ganaie said NCDs have directly been affected by coronavirus as mortality is 5 to 10 times high in these conditions.

“More mortality is because of indirect effects like lack of health consultations, medications, exercise, increasing stress, etc. Although, there are no figures available from Kashmir, global data indicates that these could be worst as there were some local problems before the countrywide lockdown,” Dr Ashraf said.

According to a WHO survey released on June 1, prevention and treatment services for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have been severely disrupted since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a survey of 155 countries last month, the UN health agency found worrying problems in the provision of health care for people with non-communicable diseases, many of whom are at higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19.

“Many people who need treatment for diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes have not been receiving the health services and medicines they need since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement.