Thursday, September 14, 2017

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a very common health condition that currently affects an est. 800,000 Canadian woman, and even more women on a worldwide scale. While it is most commonly found in females between the ages of 25 and 40, it does not discriminate, and symptoms of endometriosis can also be present in teenagers – it has even been reported in girls as young as 12 years of age. 

Endometriosis occurs when the endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus and becomes trapped, resulting in persistent and oftentimes severe abdominal and/or pelvic pain, painful periods, as well as infertility. While there is no known cause of endometriosis, many health experts are in agreement that there are several factors that can play a role in the development of endometriosis, such as genetic and hormonal reasons. Women are also at a higher risk of developing endometriosis if it runs in their families – for example, a blood relative, such as a sister or mother.

There are many health conditions that can mimic the symptoms of endometriosis, such as ovarian cysts, STI’s, pelvic inflammatory disease, or urinary and bowel problems. In order to accurately diagnose endometriosis, it is important for Dr. Ali Ghahary to rule out these or any other conditions with symptoms similar to that of endometriosis. 

In order to confirm endometriosis, a surgical procedure known as a laparoscopy is often performed by a medical specialist (such as a gynecologist or OB/GYN.) To perform a laparoscopy, the patient is put to sleep under general anesthesia. A tiny incision (or incisions) is then made, and a small, telescope-like tube, known as a laparoscope, is then inserted into the skin. If endometriosis is present, the surgeon will be able to see patches of endometrial tissue.

Upon confirmation of endometriosis, your family physician and/or specialist will determine the best course of treatment for you, and will often base the treatment on the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. In mild cases of endometriosis, it’s highly recommended that patients try over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen before moving on to stronger pain relief medications. If you aren’t planning to get pregnant, oral contraceptives can also be helpful in reducing pain. However, if symptoms are severe or if fertility is an issue for you, then the patient may opt for alternative treatment methods – including the use of fertility drugs, and sometimes even surgery.

More information on endometriosis, including support groups as well as details on upcoming events to help raise awareness about this condition, can be found via the Endometriosis Network of Canada.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Preterm Labour / Premature Birth

Typically, a pregnancy is supposed to last up to 9 months. However, when a birth occurs more than 3 weeks (or prior to the start of the 37th week of pregnancy) before your due date, this is known as premature birth (preterm labour.) Preterm labour happens when the contractions of the uterine causes the cervix to open earlier than it should. In most cases, babies that are born prematurely go on to grow and develop as normal; this is due, in part, to the advances that have been made in health care over the years. However, not all premature births are without risk.

There are many risk factors that can lead to premature birth. While some of those risk factors can be decreased, others cannot. For example, certain lifestyle habits can play a significant role in whether or not a pregnancy will last full-term. Doing illegal drugs, smoking or drinking alcohol not only put the mother at risk of going into preterm labour, but also put the baby at risk of health problems. Stress, too, can also lead to premature birth. In order to protect not only your own health, but the health of your child, it is important to make positive, healthy changes to your lifestyle. For help on making those changes, reach out to your family physician. 

If you do not have a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to provide care to patients on a walk-in basis at Brentwood Medical Clinic. You can find his walk-in schedule by visiting the clinic’s website at You can also find Dr. Ali Ghahary’s schedule on his own website at

Women who have previously experienced preterm labour are also at a higher risk of experiencing it with future pregnancies. Studies have also shown that multiple gestations (such as being pregnant with twins or triplets, etc.) also put the mother at a higher risk of preterm labour – in fact, as many as 50% of premature births occur with multiple gestations, whereas that number is significantly lower with the birth of a single infant – at just 10%.

There are also certain medical conditions that can lead to preterm labour. Some of these medical conditions include having high blood pressure, a history of UTI’s (urinary tract infections), STI’s (sexually transmitted infections), being under or overweight, diabetes, IVF (in vitro fertilization), and more. Mothers of certain ages and ethnicities are also more likely to go into preterm labour.

As mentioned previously, not all premature births are without risk. Babies that are both prematurely are at risk of developing respiratory problems, heart problems, brain problems, jaundice, and anemia – though the list of risks is much longer. Premature babies are also at a much greater risk of developing infections, such as pneumonia or sepsis, due to their immune systems not yet being fully formed.

In order to ensure that your baby receives the best care possible, they may be required to stay in-hospital for an extended period of time. This is to ensure that they are able to breathe on their own, are at a healthy weight (at least 4 pounds) and can gain weight steadily, can keep warm on their own without the use of an incubator, and are able to breastfeed or bottle-feed.

For more information on how to reduce the risk of preterm labour and to avoid pregnancy complications, visit the B.C. Women’s Hospital and Health Centre website at and HeathLink BC.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Muscular Dystrophy Awareness

To date, as many as 50,000 Canadians are living with neuromuscular disorders – a term that is used to describe different diseases affecting the ways in which the muscles function. Muscular Dystrophy, for example, is a disease that causes the muscle mass to decrease, as well as muscle weakness.

While symptoms of Muscular Dystrophy are more noticeable in childhood, it is not exclusively a childhood disorder. Muscular Dystrophy can affect individuals of all ages, and symptoms may not occur until later in life. 

As mentioned, Muscular Dystrophy can lead to muscle waste and/or weakness. Some of the other predominant symptoms include poor balance, frequent falling, having a limited range of movement, difficulty walking and drooping eyelids. We have genes that are responsible for making proteins to help protect the muscle fibers from damage – it is when these genes become defective that Muscular Dystrophy occurs. Muscular Dystrophy is an inherited disease; therefore you are at a high risk of developing it or passing it onto your children if there is a history of Muscular Dystrophy or other neuromuscular disorders in your family. 

As Muscular Dystrophy is a progressive disease, over time you may notice a worsening in the symptoms mentioned above. Some individuals with MD may develop breathing problems and require the use of a breathing device. You may also have trouble swallowing – if that is the case, you may require a feeding tube to ensure that you do not become malnourished. As a result of weaker muscles, your spine may also begin to curve – the medical term for this is scoliosis. The ability to walk may also decrease and can result in the required use of a wheelchair.

To accurately diagnose Muscular Dystrophy, Dr. Ali Ghahary may refer patients for a number of different tests. These include enzyme tests to check your levels of creatine kinase (CK), electrode tests such as electromyography, as well as genetic testing. A muscle biopsy may also be necessary which will be used to analyze the tissue and distinguish the difference between Muscular Dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders.

There is no known cure for Muscular Dystrophy. However, family physicians such as Dr. Ali Ghahary as well as other medical specialists can provide different treatment recommendations to help reduce the symptoms associated with the disease. Prednisone, for example, is a corticosteroid that is used to treat a wide range of health issues. In patients with Muscular Dystrophy, taking Prednisone can delay the progression of the disease as well as improve muscle strength. However, it is important to note that there are many side effects associated with taking this medication on a long-term basis, such as weakened bones, an increased risk of fractures, as well as weight gain. If Muscular Dystrophy has caused damage to the heart, Dr. Ghahary will prescribe beta-blockers or angiotensin-converting enzyme medications. As Muscular Dystrophy can impact one’s ability to be mobile, physical therapy is another treatment option to consider. A physical therapist can provide you with range-of-motion and stretch exercises to help keep your joints flexible. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergies can come in many different forms. Food and medication allergies, for example, can be severe and sometimes life threatening; while other allergies, such as hay fever, which typically affects individuals in the spring and summer months, can simply be an annoyance. These kinds of allergies can be treated with OTC allergy medications like Benadryl or Reactine. Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family doctor from Vancouver, British Columbia, may also prescribe patients with nasal sprays, and in cases of severe allergies he will also prescribe patients with an epinephrine auto injector. If you suffer from serious allergies it is important to keep your epinephrine auto injector with you at all times – and, in the event that you have to use the epinephrine injector, it is important to remember to call 911.

Unlike food and medication allergies, which can occur within 20 to 30 minutes of exposure to the allergen, another type of allergy known as Allergic Contact Dermatitis (ACD) can take as long as 48 to 72 hours before you will notice any kind of reaction. While food and medication allergies can affect the throat and your ability to breathe, allergies that are a result of Allergic Contact Dermatitis affect the skin – causing irritation, a rash, hives, and even eczema

The list of substances that can cause Allergic Contact Dermatitis is long. You can develop it from wearing jewelry (due to nickel), perfumes and other fragrances, from household cleaners, hair dye, and even latex.

Allergic Contact Dermatitis is usually fairly easy to diagnose and is also easy to treat as long as you are aware of what you have been exposed to/what your allergies are, and take extra precautions to avoid exposure to those allergens in the future. Patients will often find relief by using topical creams or topical steroids, and in some cases oral antibiotics may be necessary to prevent or treat secondary infection as a result of ACD. In severe cases, Dr. Ghahary may also prescribe patients with a short course of oral steroids to help reduce inflammation.