Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Common Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders

Over 20 million Canadians live with digestive or other gastrointestinal-related disorders, this according to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation. There are over 15 types of digestive and/or gastrointestinal conditions, and they can all present with similar characteristics. Below is a look at the most common digestive conditions, their symptoms, and information on how they can be treated.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD occurs when stomach acid or bile backs up and goes into the esophagus. The most common symptoms of this disease are regurgitation, heartburn and indigestion, which can range from mild to severe. Individuals who are overweight, smoke, have diabetes or asthma are at an increased risk of developing GERD. If left untreated, GERD can cause inflammation of the esophagus, resulting in complications such as narrowing of the esophagus or bleeding, causing pain and making it difficult to swallow. GERD is usually detected based on the symptoms that the patient is experiencing. However, in some cases further testing may be required such as an upper GI series, also known as a barium swallow or pH probe tests. You may also be referred to a Gastroenterologist; they can perform a test called an endoscopy. An endoscopy examines your esophagus by inserting a thin tube equipped with a small camera down your throat. To treat GERD, over-the-counter medications are usually the first choice for treatment. These include antacids such as Tums, Rolaids, Gaviscon or Maalox and will provide almost immediate relief of heartburn. H2 receptor blockers such as Zantac are also commonly used to treat GERD and can also be found over the counter. Unlike the previous antacids mentioned, they do not work as quickly but will provide you with longer relief. Your physician can also prescribe stronger versions of H2 receptor blockers. In more severe cases of GERD, PPI’s (Proton Pump Inhibitors) are usually recommended. These block acid production and heal damaged tissue. PPI’s include Prevacid and Prilosec, which can be found over-the-counter, as well as prescription-strength medications such as Nexium, Protonix and Dexilant. Side effects of these medications are usually not a concern…however, they can be related to B12 deficiency with long-term use. If medications are not successful, surgery may be required to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter.

Celiac Disease
Affecting over 300,000 Canadians and 1 in every 200 people in North America, Celiac Disease is considered one of the top chronic diseases in the world. Celica Disease occurs as a result of sensitivity to gluten Symptoms of Celiac disease can include abdominal pain and/or bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, fatigue and anemia. While there is no cure for Celiac Disease, it is important to eat a healthy, gluten-free diet to lessen the symptoms associated with the disease. It can also cause certain nutritional deficiencies, so it may be beneficial to take a multivitamin to ensure you are getting the appropriate amount of nutrients into your body. For specific diet information, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Wordpress blog at http://alighahary.wordpress.com.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Over 12,000 Canadians are diagnosed with IBS every year. It can cause mild to severe symptoms that oftentimes alternate such as persistent abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and constipation. Click here for more information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

If you suspect that you might have any of these digestive or gastrointestinal related disorders or others not mentioned here, make an appointment to discuss your concerns with your family physician. Alternatively, there are also physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary who are available to see patients at their clinics on a walk-in basis.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Common Types of Skin Rashes

Skin rashes are a common condition that can affect both adults and children. Psoriasis, Eczema and Rosacea are the most common, recurrent skin conditions that are found in adults; Chicken Pox, Measles, Heat Rash, Hives, and Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease are the most common skin conditions that affect children.

A skin rash can also be the result of an allergic reaction – usually the result of a food or medication – with the rash typically appearing within 30 to 40 minutes of consumption or contact with the allergen.

For specific information on food allergies, visit https://alighahary.wordpress.com.

While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, it is thought to have genetic predispositions as well as environmental factors. Stress has also been said to play a significant role in the flare-ups of psoriasis. Psoriasis can cause small patches of red, scaly, flaky and crusty skin that can be itchy and/or sore. It commonly occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp or lower back, but can appear almost anywhere on the body.


Similar to Psoriasis, Eczema can also cause itchy, scaly skin. It affects anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of infants and 3 to 5 percent of adults. The cause of Eczema is also unknown but it has been linked to an overactive response by the body’s immune system, usually to an irritant.


Unlike Psoriasis and Eczema, Rosacea does not typically cause itching. Instead, the main symptom of Rosacea is inflammation causing burning, redness and/or flushing of the cheeks, nose, chin and forehead. It can also cause soreness or burning of the eyes. Rosacea can worsen over time if left untreated, so it is important to see your physician if you suspect you have Rosacea to get appropriate treatment.


With many of these skin conditions, Dr. Ali Ghahary will prescribe lotions or creams to reduce the symptoms. The most commonly prescribed lotion is hydrocortisone, which works by reducing inflammation of the skin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Importance of Medical Imaging

For general practitioners in Vancouver, British Columbia like Dr. Ali Ghahary, medical imaging plays an important role in helping to determine certain diseases, cancers, and other health problems that cannot be immediately detected, and has immense benefits for both physicians and patients. Medical imaging has been a revolutionary part of health care for many decades and can detect certain health conditions at an early stage, thus providing patients and their families with the most appropriate and effective treatment, and the best outcomes possible.

Below is a look at some of the different types of medical imaging procedures.

The most common form of medical imaging, an X-Ray produces a detailed 2D image of internal body structures such as bones. Depending on which part of the body is being scanned, you may be asked to stand up or lie down for an X-Ray. You will also be asked to remove any jewellery or other items containing metal prior to the scan, as these can cause inaccurate scans or “ghost images.” In certain cases, a contrast agent may be administered to the patient via IV. Contrast helps to enhance the visibility of the structures being scanned. When contrast is being given, patients may notice a sensation of warmth or the feeling of having to urinate – this is not uncommon. There may be delayed side effects to IV contrast such as skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches, but these are rare. X-Rays are fast, taking no longer than 15 minutes in most cases, and they are also non-invasive. While X-Rays are generally safe during pregnancy, they are not recommended for women who are or may be pregnant due to the high exposure to radiation, the possibility of cell damage, and the risk of developing cancer, therefore in cases of pregnancy it is only recommended that X-Rays are done if it is an emergency. 


CT Scan (Computed Tomography)
CT scans, also referred to as a CAT Scan, are another common form of medical imaging, and are used to produce 3D images of your body’s structures. This includes bones, organs and blood vessels. Soft tissue, however, is less visible on CT scans, and may require an MRI to be seen properly.

CT Scan

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
MRI’s are often the preferred choice of medical imaging in comparison to X-Rays and CT Scans, as they do not use ionizing radiation. Instead, your body is exposed to a magnetic field and radio waves, which then produce 3D images. MRI’s are used to diagnose various health conditions and can produce photographs of internal body structures such as bones, joints, the brain, spinal cord, heart, blood vessels and other organs. On average, an MRI can vary from 30 to 60 minutes dependent on the part of the body that is being scanned. Similar in look to a CT scan, an MRI is a circular, tunnel-like machine, about 1.5 metres in length. Some patients may find an MRI to be claustrophobic, resulting in panic attacks, and may need to take anti-anxiety medication approximately half an hour before the procedure. This medication can be prescribed by your family physician. In rare cases, especially in children who tend to move around more, general anesthetic may also be administered.


Ultrasound / Sonogram
An ultrasound is a safe test that uses high-frequency sound waves, rather than radiation. Ultrasounds can capture images of your body’s soft-tissue structures such as the gallbladder, kidneys, liver, pancreas and bladder, and can also determine blood flow and detect blockages in arteries. For women who are pregnant, an ultrasound is commonly referred to as a sonogram. A sonogram is typically administered anywhere from 18 to 20 weeks, but can also be done earlier to determine a baby’s due date. They are a great test to ensure that you are having a healthy pregnancy. In the first trimester, a sonogram can let you know how many babies you are carrying, as well as the baby’s heart rate, and show the umbilical cord and placenta. Sonograms are more detailed in the second trimester of pregnancy, showing images of the head/face, heart, limbs, spine and abdomen.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Iron Deficiency - Symptoms and Treatmeant Options

Iron is an essential nutrient found in the hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance found in red blood cells that is responsible for carrying oxygen from your lungs and transporting it throughout your body. When the body does not have enough iron, it cannot make enough cells to carry oxygen. In addition, iron is also beneficial in maintaining healthy skin, hair and nails.

Low iron is usually found when physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary send patients for routine blood work. Part of that routine blood work usually includes a CBC count (complete blood cell). A CBC measures different components in the blood including the red blood cells, white blood cells, the hemoglobin, hematocrit, and the blood platelets. If you are found to have low iron, it is always recommended that you get proper intake in the form of an iron supplement.


How much iron you need is dependent on your age, gender, and your overall health. Women generally need more iron then men as a result of blood loss during menstruation. It is recommended that women between the age of 19 and 50 get at least 18 milligrams of iron per day, whereas men are only required to get 8 milligrams. An individual may also require more iron if they are pregnant or breastfeeding. Individuals on kidney dialysis may also require iron as it can remove iron from the body. Gastrointestinal disorders such as Celiac and Crohn’s can also significantly reduce iron levels.

Symptoms of low iron include weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin, soreness or swelling of the tongue, cold hands and/or feet, a fast or irregular heartbeat, headaches and brittle nails. Low iron can also lead to anemia – the final stage of having low iron, which occurs when your iron levels or low for a long period of time. As a result, anemia can worsen these symptoms. While the symptoms of low iron are generally quite mild, complications can occur. In severe cases, women who are pregnant may go into premature labour. As such, to prevent this from happening, pregnant women will usually take an iron supplement as a part of their prenatal care. There may also be delayed growth in infants and children, and they may be more prone to developing infections.

As mentioned, low iron is usually treated with iron supplements, which can be found at your local pharmacy. It is recommended that they are taken on an empty stomach so that the body can absorb them better. However, iron supplements are also known to be hard on the stomach, so if you find you are sensitive to the supplement you are able to take them with meals if necessary. It is also important to note that iron supplements can cause constipation and stools that are darker in colour, so do not be alarmed if this happens. If you do have any concerns, always feel free to speak with your pharmacy or physician. Alernatively, iron can also be found in your diet by eating more red meat, nuts, dried fruit, and leafy, dark green vegetables.

More diet information can be found at https://alighahary.wordpress.com/.