Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lyme Disease

If a tick has ever bitten you then you are at an increased risk of developing an inflammatory infection known as Lyme disease. Lyme disease is caused by a certain type of bacteria known as borrelia, which infects animals such as birds, rodents and deer. Ticks pick up the bacteria by biting an infected animal before biting and transferring that bacteria to humans, resulting in Lyme disease.

The problem with Lyme disease is that many individuals who are affected are not even aware they have it – at least not initially – as it is easy to overlook some if its’ most common symptoms. For example, forgetfulness is often attributed to aging; things like not remembering where you put the keys, forgetting a conversation that you had with someone, or forgetting appointments. Other symptoms such as lack of fatigue and lack of concentration are also often attributed to being a normal part of life – especially after a gruelling day at work or in school. However, all of these symptoms mentioned can also be signs of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease rash
One misconception about Lyme disease is that you have to look ill in order to be ill, which is not the case. Outwardly, someone with Lyme disease may appear to be fine. However, in reality they may feel quite unwell and experience low levels of energy, in addition to experiencing a long list of other symptoms – over 100 – including rash, hair loss, headache, facial paralysis, stiff neck, jaw pain, sore throat and other flu-like symptoms, dental problems, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, eye pain, plugged or painful ears, ringing/ buzzing in one or both ears, decreased hearing, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation, fibromyalgia, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, poor balance, a burning or stabbing sensation in parts of the body, tremors, mood swings, depression, insomnia, memory loss, confusion, slurred speech, decreased libido, pelvic pain, breast pain, weight loss or weight gain, phantom smells, swollen glands and/or lymph nodes, allergies, and chronic infections. These are just some of the many symptoms of Lyme disease, and not everyone will experience the same or all of these symptoms.

When caught early, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. However, if left untreated you are at risk of developing complications, which can sometimes be permanent. Living with Lyme disease can be challenging, but there are some important steps that Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients with Lyme disease follow, including getting plenty of rest, avoiding things like smoking, alcohol and caffeine, getting exercise (low-impact – you do not need to over-exert yourself), and eating a diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in fibre and protein.

If you would like information on what type of treatments may be best suited for you, Dr. Ali Ghahary is always available to see patients on a walk-in basis at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby. To find out Dr. Ali Ghahary’s walk-in hours for specific days, click here.

What is Gout?

Gout is a medical term that you might hear referenced quite a bit – but what is it, exactly? Gout is a type of arthritis that is caused by an accumulation of uric acid crystals in the bloodstream, which then affects the joints, such as those in the foot in addition to other areas and joints in the body including the ankles, knees, hands, wrists, fingers and elbows.

In this article, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, explains what gout is, what causes it, and what preventative measures you can take against it.

Gout can be caused by a number of different factors. A diet that is rich in purines, for example, can play a significant role in the contribution of gout. Foods that are rich in purines include red meats or organ meats, legumes and shellfish, as well as alcohol. Being overweight or obese can also contribute to gout due to extra stress being placed on the joints as a result, thus making them more susceptible to gout. Individuals with diabetes are also at an increased risk of developing gout as diabetes can cause poor circulation. Certain medications, such as aspirin, as well as having high blood pressure can also contribute to gout.

If you have gout, there are certain things you can do to prevent it from occurring. As with many health conditions, it’s important to know your triggers. If food is the suspected cause of your gout, try to avoid those purine-rich foods as mentioned previously. Instead, include more low-fat dairy products in your diet in addition to fruits and vegetables. By eating a healthy diet, you not only alleviate gout and reduce your risk of developing gout in the future, but you also reduce the risk of many other health problems. For more in-depth information on healthy eating, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter and Instagram. You can also find plenty of tips on healthy eating, including low-carb diets, by visiting Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog on Wordpress. In additional to eating healthy, reducing your weight can also reduce your risk of gout. When it comes to weight loss, healthy eating and physical activity go hand in hand. However, it’s important to not go on a crash diet as these can actually be dangerous and cause your uric acid levels to spike. While we’re on the subject of diet, you should also make sure you’re reducing your sodium intake to alleviate or reduce the risk of high blood pressure – as having high blood pressure has also been linked to gout. If you suspect a medication may be causing gout, do not stop taking the medication without first speaking to your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on the medication, quitting it “cold turkey” could be dangerous to your health, so let your doctor or pharmacist make that decision for you. It may simply be a matter of changing your dose or prescribing you a new medication all-together.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Stomach Ulcers

Stomach pain is a very common symptom that Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, comes across in patients. It can be caused by many different things for different reasons. 

Some of the most common causes of stomach pain include food poisoning, diarrhea, constipation, gas, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, kidney stones, gallstones and appendicitis. While many of these causes can be treated with medication (and in some cases, surgery), there are many other causes of stomach pain, such as stomach ulcers, that one should be aware of.

Along with having a general feeling of stomach discomfort, ulcers can produce symptoms such as a burning sensation between the chest and belly button, bloating, nausea and vomiting, dark or tarry looking stools, burping, heartburn, acid reflux, and anemia.

There is a thick later of mucus in the stomach that is responsible for protecting it against digestive juices. However, when this layer of mucus is reduced, this allows acid to eat at the lining of the stomach, which then results in an ulcer, and can even cause stomach bleeding.

To diagnose a stomach ulcer, your physician may refer you for a series of tests, including tests to rule out a potential H. pylori infection. H. pylori is a type of bacteria that enters the digestive tract which can also lead to peptic ulcers, and even cancer. To rule out H. pylori as the cause of stomach ulcers, you can do a blood test, or may be asked to do a stool or breath test. Another test, such as a barium swallow, is a type of X-ray that is performed when drinking a white liquid known as barium. The barium coats your gastrointestinal tract and allows your doctor and radiologist to see if there are any abnormalities in both the stomach and the esophagus. Another test known as an endoscopy is also sometimes performed, and is done by inserting a thin tube through the mouth and into the stomach. A biopsy may also be performed during the endoscopy so that your stomach tissue can be analyzed in a lab.

Treating a stomach ulcer depends on how severe the symptoms are, though most ulcers are easily treated with over-the-counter acid blocker medications such as Zantac. Your doctor may also write you a prescription for a stronger acid blocker like Nexium (esomeprazole) or Dexilant (dexlansoprazole). Eating a healthy diet can also improve your intestinal tract and give you a better quality of life overall.

Healthy Meal Ideas and Meal Planning Tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary

Eating a well-balanced diet is an important part of your overall health and well-being. When combined with physical activity, healthy eating can provide a wide variety of benefits – including helping with weight loss and reducing the risk of a number of different diseases.

For working adults or for parents who have school-aged children, planning meals isn’t always easy. Certain meals can have long preparation times, while kids may be picky and not always want to eat what’s put on their plate – but meal planning isn’t as hard as you might think. There are many simple, but nevertheless healthy recipes out there to try – and meal planning can actually be a fun family activity that adults and children can participate in together – from choosing what to eat for the week, to cooking together. By planning out your meals, you not only give yourself more time to relax, but will ultimately find that you’re making healthier food choices as a result.

Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, British Columbia, shares some easy-to-make, delicious and healthy recipes.

Breakfast is the most important meal you can eat. Not eating breakfast would be like trying to drive a car that has no fuel. The mornings, however, can also be a busy time for households across Canada – parents are getting ready to go to work, kids are possibly finishing their homework and/or getting ready to go to school – time available to sit down to a meal is limited. The good news is that there are plenty of breakfast options available, requiring little to no preparation at all – and without the use of your stove or oven. Fruit salad, for example, is easy to prepare. Fruits also contain plenty of vitamins and minerals to help keep you feeling energized, and can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and even cancer. The types of fruit you choose to use are entirely up to you. You can also add Greek yogurt for additional texture and flavour. Compared to regular yogurts, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and low in lactose.

Lunch can be challenging. For children and teenagers, many schools offer lunch programs, though sometimes that lunch is also bought from a vending machine. This is neither ideal nor healthy. Instead, try to encourage your child to bring homemade meals with them to school and prepare them the night before. Examples of healthy lunches include: Tuna sandwiches with lettuce on whole-wheat bread, raw baby carrots (or other vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and celery) with low-fat ranch dressing used for dipping, hard boiled eggs, sliced ham or turkey.

Lastly, dinner. If you have a slow cooker, you can often begin dinner preparation first thing in the morning and it will be ready when you arrive home. Things like chicken, beef, soups and stews can all be made in a slow cooker. You can find a variety of slow cooker recipes on Pinterest by clicking here. Other healthy dinner options include hamburgers on whole-wheat buns with oven-cooked yam fries (an alternative to the regular French fry), steak and baked potato with steamed vegetables, and pasta made with egg noodles.

For low-carb meal options or more information on healthy eating in general, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram and Twitter.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Infertility in Men and Women

Infertility can affect both males and females. In Canada, infertility accounts for as many as 15% of couples – that’s 1 in every 6 – making it more of a widespread problem than one might think. Infertility is characterized by the inability to achieve pregnancy/conceive after approximately 12 months of unprotected intercourse, and without the use of any oral contraceptives (birth control.) Infertility is more common in women, affecting approximately 40% to 50% percent, while it affects about 20% to 30% of men.

In this article, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, shares information on some of the most common causes of infertility in both men and women.

In women, infertility can be due to a number of different factors, such as irregular menstrual cycles, hormonal imbalances, a history of any STIs or STDs, fibroids in the uterus, blockages in the fallopian tubes, and developing early menopause. The ability to conceive also decreases after the age of 35. In men, infertility can also be the result of hormonal imbalances and a history of sexually transmitted diseases/sexually transmitted infections, as well as having a low sperm count or a poor quality of sperm. Other common, combined factors of infertility in both men and women include the use of alcohol and tobacco, being over or under weight, as well as certain chronic illnesses and treatment for cancer (such as radiation or chemotherapy.)

In order to reduce the risk of infertility and increase the chance of being able to conceive, women should check with their physician or OBGYN to make sure that a hormonal imbalance is not the cause. It’s also important that you avoid drinking alcohol or smoking, eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise. It’s also quite common to experience a constant emotional roller coaster whenever you are dealing with fertility issues; you may feel a sense of loss, hopelessness, and social isolation. If you are experiencing these kinds of emotions or stress, it is important to speak with someone you trust. This can, again, be a medical professional, such as a family doctor, a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, friends, or family members that you trust and have a close bond with. For couples that are struggling through infertility, it is also important to do different activities together that will help to divert from the stress you’re experiencing.

To check for infertility, certain tests – such as blood tests and urine samples – may be done. Depending on your test results, those responsible for your care will decide upon the best options for fertility treatments – which can include drugs to induce ovulation, intrauterine insemination – also known as IUI, and IVF – also known as in-vitro fertilization.