Thursday, March 23, 2017

Health Dangers of Mold

Do you have a chronic cough? Do you experience unusual shortness of breath? Frequent headaches? What about recurrent sinus and respiratory infections or flu-like symptoms? These could all be indicative of exposure to mold, which can cause many of the aforementioned symptoms and pose other serious risks to your health.

Moisture is the key cause of mold. Certain molds produce mycotoxins, a toxic secondary metabolite that is produced by fungus, also known as fungal poisons. Exposure to high levels of these mycotoxins can be harmful to both humans and animals, leading to disease, neurological problems, and even death. 


Mold can be found indoors and tends to grow in places with lots of moisture. This can result from leaks in roofs, windows, and/or pipes. Mold can also enter your home from outside through open windows, doors, vents, and even heating or air conditioning systems, and can attach itself to clothing, shoes and pets. Mold can also grow in insulation, drywall, carpeting, wallpaper, paint and cardboard. While mold can be seen – usually appearing as spots – it can also be described as having a musty smell. 

Symptoms of mold exposure/sensitivity include the following:

Chronic cough
Recurrent respiratory infections
Shortness of breath
Red or itchy eyes
Skin rash
Feeling lightheaded
Joint pain
Trouble concentrating

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, recommends seeking medical attention if you have any of these persisting symptoms. If you are in need of the advice of a physician, Dr. Ghahary is available to see patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic on a walk-in basis every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. You can find Dr. Ghahary's full walk-in schedule by visiting the clinic’s website at or

There are also certain tips you can follow to prevent the growth of mold and the symptoms associated to it. First and foremost, fix any leaks. As mentioned, mold likes moisture. If your home has flooded, always clean and dry the home promptly – preferably within 24 to 48 hours. It’s also important to control humidity levels and keep them as low as possible, ensuring that they do not go higher than 50%. If you see mold growth, it can be removed with household products, i.e. soap and water. You can also remove mold with a bleach solution that consists of 1 cup of bleach mixed into 1 gallon of water.

For more great health tips, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary. He is also on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Additionally, Dr. Ghahary's page is frequently updated with health Q&A on a weekly basis and is another great source for health information.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Early Signs of Appendicitis

Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever or chills, loss of appetite, constipation or diarrhea…these are all symptoms that may be suggestive of appendicitis. While these symptoms could also be indicative of other health problems such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Diverticulitis, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, they are not symptoms that should be ignored. In this article we’re going to take a closer look at appendicitis, why it occurs, and what can be done in terms of treatment.

Appendicitis occurs when the appendix, a narrow, tube-shaped organ that is attached to the large intestine on the right side of the lower abdomen, becomes inflamed and causes pain as a result. Appendicitis typically occurs in individuals who are between the ages of 10 and 40. 

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and loss of appetite are all symptoms that are indicative of appendicitis. However, the symptoms of appendicitis can differ in children than adults. While abdominal pain is the classic symptom that a child with appendicitis will complain of, it is not uncommon for that pain to also be associated with the flu, food poisoning, or constipation. Another telltale sign of appendicitis is sharp pain that occurs when pressure is placed onto the abdominal area and worsens when that pressure is released. An individual with appendicitis may also have an elevated white blood cell count. If white blood cells are elevated, this suggests that an infection is present. If abdominal pain persists for longer than a day or worsens in a short period of time, it is important that you do not ignore it and instead seek the opinion of a physician immediately. Walk-in clinics like Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, where Dr. Ali Ghahary practices, are well-equipped to deal with patients who may be experiencing these symptoms. In addition, emergency rooms in and around Vancouver also treat acute cases of appendicitis, and patients may be referred by their physician to an ER for further treatment if it is a suspected emergency. It is important to note that symptoms of appendicitis may not always present immediately or as they normally should, sometimes making it a difficult condition to diagnose.

Patients with appendicitis commonly experience LRQ (lower right quadrant) pain

If left untreated, appendicitis can become a life-threatening condition. When the appendix becomes infected or inflamed, bacteria begins to multiply rapidly until the muscular wall of your appendix becomes to thin that it eventually ruptures, resulting in bacteria-laden pus to ooze into your abdomen. If your appendix ruptures, doctors will try to treat it by draining pus from the abdomen as well as prescribing a course of antibiotics for 6 to 8 weeks. However, in most cases, the appendix will need to be surgically removed to avoid further complications – this is known as an appendectomy. An appendectomy can be performed two different ways – as an open surgery, which is done by cutting 2 to 4 inch incision into the abdomen, or via laparoscopic surgery, which is done through a few smaller incisions and guided via a video camera into the abdomen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chronic Sinusitis

Scan showing sinuses/sinusitis
Chronic Sinusitis, also commonly referred to as Rhinosinusitis, is a recurring condition causing inflammation of the nasal passages in addition to mucus buildup, causing a vast array of symptoms. Chronic sinusitis has a reported prevalence of 5% in Canada, which increases with age, as well an increased prevalence in individuals with other chronic health conditions such as asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.) 

The symptoms of chronic sinusitis, the common cold and allergies can all be similar. Each of these conditions can cause the patient to have a congested or runny nose, headache, cough, ear pain/pressure, and even fatigue. When trying to determine whether you have chronic sinusitis, Vancouver physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will perform routine examinations by checking to see if you have tenderness in the nose or face and will also ask if you have discolouration of nasal discharge or nasal obstruction, which may oftentimes be indicative of a sinus infection. To confirm a suspect sinus infection, your physician may give you a requisition for an X-Ray, which can often be done by walking into any Radiology clinic without any appointment necessary, or send you for a CT Scan or MRI, which is typically done by appointment at any Vancouver or Lower Mainland hospital. These kinds of imaging scans will help to detect deep inflammation within the sinuses as well as confirm whether or not any infection is present, and will help guide your physician on the appropriate treatment required.

Nasal Polyps
Causes of chronic sinusitis include nasal polyps (growth of tissue that blocks the sinuses and/or nasal passages), a deviated or damaged septum (restricts or blocks the nasal passages), and respiratory infections (can be viral, bacterial or fungal.) Other medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux and other immune system related disorders have also been linked to the development of chronic sinusitis. You are also at a greater risk of developing chronic sinusitis if you have asthma or are exposed to pollutants such as smoke (or secondhand smoke.) Serious complications of chronic sinusitis include vision problems, potential or complete loss of your sense of smell, and meningitis.

Treatment of chronic sinusitis is dependent on the symptoms and their level of severity. If less than 7 days, chronic sinusitis is typically treated symptomatically; with intranasal corticosteroids (such as Nasonex) being prescribed in effort to help reduce inflammation and alleviate the symptoms you may be experiencing. Other treatment may include immunotherapy (allergy shots) to decrease the body’s reaction to certain allergens. If you are non-responsive to treatment or if the duration of symptoms is greater than 7 days (in addition to imaging showing a present infection), the likelihood of a bacterial infection increases and physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will then consider prescribing antibiotics to the patient. In recurring cases, as well as with persisting severe symptoms, a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist in Vancouver (or the surrounding area) may be required to determine if any further treatment, such as Endoscopic sinus surgery, is necessary. Endoscopic sinus surgery is usually done as a last resort when treatment has not been effective, and will remove any inflamed tissue or nasal polyps, as well as enlarge narrow sinus openings to help sinus drainage.