Friday, August 26, 2016

Cases of Melanoma Growing Rapidly in Canada

On average, an estimated 500 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer each day. Out of each type of cancer that exists, Melanoma is one of the fastest rising cancers in the country. As many as 6,800 Canadians will be diagnosed with Melanoma; 3,700 of those diagnosed are men, while 3,100 are women.

Melanoma occurs when the skin has been exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation – either from natural sunlight or other forms of UV radiation such as tanning beds – which causes a change in the skin cells. As a result, a malignant tumour or tumours will form in the melanocytes. The melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, which is responsible for the pigmentation of your skin and eyes. Keeping the skin protected at all times is important. The skin is the body’s largest organ and is culpable in protecting the skin from injury, infection and sunlight. The skin is also plays an essential role in keeping your body temperature under control by ridding itself of bodily waste via the sweat glands. Malignant tumours can also oftentimes metastasize to different parts of the body, and it is not limited to just the skin. Albeit rare, Melanoma can be found anywhere in the body that melanocytes are present, including the mucosal tissue (Mucosal Lentiginous Melanoma), internal organs, and the eyes (Intraocular Melanoma.)

The most common and earliest symptoms that an individual with Melanoma may present with is changes to otherwise normal-looking skin or moles. While it is not uncommon to have moles (the average person has as little as 10 moles and as many as 40), they should not change in size, shape or colour, be more than 6mm in length, or feel itchy or painful. Late signs of Melanoma include enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or under the arms, feeling out of breath, chest pain, headaches, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss.

While Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer, taking some straightforward protective measures against ultraviolet radiation can also help to prevent it. If spending a protracted amount time outdoors, you should always ensure that you have the proper protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Wearing sunglasses and other protective articles of clothing, applying sunscreen and staying in the shade are all crucial factors in avoiding Melanoma. For more information on how you can avoid other heat-related illnesses, read Dr. Ali Ghahary's article on summer health and safety tips.

Friday, August 19, 2016

UV Protection

Nice weather is always a great excuse to get outdoors and be active. However, you should always ensure that you are taking extra precautions to avoid heat-related illness and other health problems associated with overexposure to UV rays. Below is a look at some further insight and recommendations from Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

Firstly, it is important to know the difference between the types of UV radiation that exist. While UVC rays are the strongest, they are the least concerning as the ozone layer prevents them from reaching the earth. On the other hand, UVA and UVB rays are the most concerning and should be taken very seriously as they can cause irreparable damage. Whether you are exposed to natural sunlight or artificial ultraviolet rays, you are at risk of developing heat stroke, severe sunburn, skin damage, and even damage to your eyes.

Just as we would wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, it is also important to protect the eyes; therefore, if you are going to be in an environment that leaves you exposed to ultraviolet rays, it is also recommended that you wear sunglasses. Both natural and artificial UV radiation can cause severe damage to the eyes, including damage to the cornea and the lens, as well as burning the frontal surface of the eyes (similar to a sunburn.) Failure to protect your eyes from UV rays can lead to both short-term as well as long-term, serious health effects, including a higher risk of developing cataracts, irreversible damage to the retina, chronic eye problems, and even skin cancer. 

When looking for a pair of sunglasses that will give your eyes enough protection, you should make sure they are free of any distortion and ensure that they screen out at least 75% (and up to 90%) of visible light, and block 99% of UVA and UVB radiation. Wrap-around frames will also provide you with increased protection.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)

Lupus Awareness
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), or simply commonly referred to as Lupus, is an autoimmune disease that attack’s the body’s healthy tissues and organs by producing antibodies causing inflammation. As many as 15,000 (or 1 in 2,000) Canadians are affected by the disease, and it can develop in individuals of all age groups and genders. However, it most commonly affects those between the ages of 15 and 44, and is generally diagnosed more frequently in women than men.

There is no known cause of lupus, however research has suggested that there may be genetic predispositions to the disease along with environmental & hormonal factors, and stress. Up to 5% of children born to individuals diagnosed with lupus will also develop the disease.

SLE commonly affects multiple parts of the body. Some early symptoms include muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, low-grade fever, and skin rash. There are several other manifestations of lupus which includes sensitivity to sunlight, loss of appetite, swollen glands, hair loss, dry eyes and/or mouth, oral ulcers, arthritis, changes in skin colour due to poor circulation, and blood abnormalities such as anemia or a low platelet count. Those diagnosed with lupus also have an increased risk of developing blood clots in addition to severe internal organ problems, including kidney, lung and heart disease, as well as brain and other neurological manifestations. These symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe.

Treatment of lupus is dependent on the symptoms of each patient, but the central objective is to avert potential damage to the organs by decreasing the body’s inflammation. If symptoms are mild, Dr. Ali Ghahary will suggest the use of anti-malarial medications in addition to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as Naproxen. In cases where symptoms are severe, patients will be prescribed immunosuppressants to control flare-ups of inflammation when other medications such as steroids have been unsuccessful or not well tolerated. It is important to note that long-term use of immunosuppressants can lead to other severe side effects, health problems, and increased infection, so it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of these medications with your primary care physician.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Living with PTSD

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a form of anxiety that materializes after a traumatic event. According to researches from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, as many as 2.4% of Canada’s population experience symptoms relating to PTSD at any given time, and a staggering 76% of individuals have reported being exposed to at least one traumatic event that was sufficient enough to cause PTSD.

Traumatic events causing PTSD can include experiencing or being a witness to natural disasters (hurricanes, earthquakes), major accidents (workplace, automobile, aircraft), criminal activity (burglary, physical violence, abuse) and military combat. Most individuals with PTSD do not experience symptoms immediately; they can appear up to 3 months after a traumatic event, or even years later. These symptoms include a constant feeling of fear or anxiousness, crying, feeling on edge, recurring thoughts and flashbacks, nightmares, inability to concentrate or make decisions, anger/resentment, feelings of guilt, avoidance, emotional withdrawal, dizziness and upset stomach.

Our body’s nervous system has 3 days of dealing with stressful events. These are via social engagementmobilization, and immobilization. Social engagement is one’s way of listening, speaking, and making eye contact, which is usually avoided in those with PTSD. Immobilization is the body’s way of feeling the need to defend itself, a “fight or flight” response, and increased blood pressure. Immobilization is the feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to calm down.

While PTSD can affect anyone, there are certain individuals that are considered to be higher risk. A study done by the University of British Columbia discovered that emergency personnel such as nurses, doctors, paramedics, police officers, firefighters and war veterans were at risk of being diagnosed with PTSD at a much higher rate than the average individual. Women were also twice as likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than men, though it’s unclear why. It can also affect children, though the symptoms can appear slightly different than those in adults. Signs your child make be experiencing PTSD include fear of separation from family, sleep problems, and the loss of acquired skills such as toilet training.

The most common treatment for PTSD is the use of SSRI (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) medications to manage symptoms in combination with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which helps individuals cope with and change any harmful thoughts or feelings they may have relating to any traumatic events experienced. Exposure Therapy, which is also a part of CBT, is also used. ET is a carefully guided form of treatment that makes the patient gradually relive certain traumas in order to face their fears head on. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends patients attend support groups, as having people to relate and talk to can make you feel less isolated and alone.

Some other helpful tips in dealing with PTSD include breathing exercises as well as engaging in regular physical activity – you do not need to have a strenuous workout, but something as simple as 30 minutes of walking each day can be beneficial to not only the mind, but the body as well. You should also avoid drugs and alcohol, and make sure you are getting a proper sleep each night.

For those dealing with loved ones who suffer from PTSD, it is important to educate yourself on certain triggers that can cause your friend or family member feelings of discomfort, and also to be supportive.