Strep Throat Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Strep throat is a bacterial infection that belongs to a class known as Group A Streptococcus (GAS), causing pain and inflammation in the throat. In Canada it accounts for up to 15% of sore throats in adults, and up to 30% of sore throats in children, and is one of the dominant complaints that bring individuals in to see Canadian physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary. While strep throat commonly materializes in peak seasons such as late winter and early spring, it can also occur any time of the year.

Streptococci bacteria can be found everywhere. Individuals can carry it on their skin and in their throat, and it is passed around similarly to that of a viral infection – by coughing, sneezing, coming into contact with mucus or saliva, and touching others. Symptoms of strep throat include fever (higher than 38 degrees Celsius), chills, sweating, nausea, vomiting, swollen lymph nodes, and headache. Strep throat is typically diagnosed by the appearance of the throat (white patches will usually appear around the tonsils in addition to them looking red and inflamed), or by a throat swab, which is sent to a lab for further testing. Commonly, children with strep throat may also develop middle-ear infections, which can be chronic and reoccurring. In rare cases, one may develop meningitis or scarlet fever. Such complications typically do not develop until 1 to 6 weeks after the strep infection. In order to prevent strep throat, you should always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands frequently.

lozenge-462867_1280While 90% of sore throats typically get better on their own and can be relieved with things like lozenges, tea and honey, antibiotics will often be prescribed in confirmed diagnoses of strep throat for a period of 5 to 10 days, with Penicillin being the common choice amongst physicians, usually available in oral tablets/capsules or liquid suspension. If you have any known allergies to medications, it is important you let your doctor and pharmacist know so that an alternative medication can be prescribed – these alternative options include Erythromycin, Cephalexin, and Azithromycin. It is always important to finish your prescription, even if symptoms are no longer present. Failure to finish a prescription can result in symptoms returning and worsening. While taking antibiotics you should eat yogurt that contains Lactobacillus Acidophilus, as it will help restore the good bacteria to your digestive tract.

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Vitamin D Important for Optimal Health

As many as 70% of Canadians are Vitamin D deficient. This can lead to chronic health concerns and even increase the risk of being diagnosed with certain cancers (breast, prostate and colon.) Vitamin D, also often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”, has always been important to ensure optimal health. Not only does it help the body to absorb calcium, improve bone health and boost the immune system, but it is also helpful in fighting against many different diseases and health problems including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, depression and anxiety, infertility, and chronic pain, in addition to lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as helping with weight loss.

Those who are deficient in Vitamin D may experience varying symptoms including fatigue, restlessness, poor concentration, headaches, high blood pressure, joint pain and muscle cramps, weakness, weight gain, diarrhea or constipation, and bladder problems. In order to find out if you are Vitamin D deficient, your physician may send you for a blood test or x-rays in effort to determine the strength of your bones.

pill-316600_960_720Physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, British Columbia, recommend patients implement Vitamin D into their everyday lives. The current recommended dose of Vitamin D for children and adults up to the age of 50 is 200 IU per day, 400 IU per day in those aged 50 to 70, and 600 IU in individuals aged 71 or older. In those who are severely deficient in Vitamin D, higher intakes may be recommended.

While Vitamin D is found in many different supplements including multivitamins, it can also be found in certain food sources such as fish (salmon, tuna, cod liver oil), egg yolks, cheese, cow’s milk, margarine, and orange juice. For those who are vegan, Vitamin D can be found in fortified soy-milk and breakfast cereals. You can also easily obtain Vitamin D naturally with sunlight exposure – however, it is important to educate yourself on the risks of UVB rays, as overexposure has been linked to skin cancer and other heat-related illnesses. There is also such thing as getting too much Vitamin D. Supplements are usually the main cause of this, and excess Vitamin D can lead to having too much calcium in your body which can then lead to kidney damage, so it is important to pay attention to your intake.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects up to 10% of Canadian women, and is the result of tissue that would normally line the inside of the uterus instead growing outside of the uterus.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 10.37.55 AMThe most common complaint Dr. Ali Ghahary hears from those with endometriosis is pelvic pain, usually associated with the menstrual cycle. While it is not uncommon for women to experience pain and cramping during their period, those with endometriosis tend to have pain that is worse than usual. Other common symptoms of endometriosis include excessive bleeding, painful urination, pain during or after intercourse, fatigue, bloating and nausea. Complications from endometriosis include infertility, with up to one-third of women with endometriosis having difficulty getting pregnant, as well as seeing an increased number of women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer as opposed to those who do not have endometriosis.

While the exact cause of endometriosis is not known, theories have suggested that it may be the result of blood containing endometrial cells breaking into the pelvic cavity rather than out of the body. It has also been speculated that surgical procedures such as C-sections may also cause endometriosis. The risk of developing endometriosis increases if you’ve never given birth, have a history of chronic pelvic infections, have relatives with endometriosis (mother/sister/aunt), or have been diagnosed with other uterine abnormalities.

Endometriosis is often mistaken for other medical conditions that can also cause pelvic pain such as PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), thus complicating the diagnosis. Pelvic exams, ultrasounds and laparoscopies are the common tests performed to diagnose endometriosis.

Pain control is imperative for those with endometriosis, as it can be quite a debilitating condition depending on the severity of the symptoms. Over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs are always tried as the first option of treatment, as well as other home-remedies such as heating pads and warm baths; this will help to reduce cramps and calm the pelvic muscles. Hormone therapy such as birth control is also used to reduce the length of the menstrual cycle, which should suppress the pain associated with endometriosis. A complete hysterectomy may be performed, but usually only as a last resort and when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Bacterial Infections vs. Viral Infections

It is not unusual for Dr. Ali Ghahary’s patients to present with symptoms such as runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, headache, sore throats, nasal congestion and a cough from time to time. These symptoms are all manifestations of the common cold, otherwise known as infectious rhinitis, which is viral related and caused by the spreading of microorganisms (commonly referred to as germs.) In Canada, the common cold is responsible for as many as 40% of work absences and 30% of school absences. While these tiny microorganisms are invisible to the human eye, they exist all around us. They can live in water, dirt, counter tops, the skin and intestines, as well as certain warmer or colder climates.

Virus related germs are commonly spread via bodily fluids (mucus, pus, stool), respiratory secretions (coughing, sneezing), or touching a contaminated surface. Some common viral infections include, as mentioned before, infectious rhinitis, in addition to influenza – a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system, and Hepatitis A – a disease of the liver causing fever, nausea and cramps, and is usually brought on by the ingestion of contaminated food or water.

While bacterial germs and infections can have similar symptoms to viral infections, they are considered to be much more complex. Bacterial germs can be caused by foods (under-cooked meats, unwashed fruits and vegetables – resulting in something known as E.coli), insect or animal bites, blood transfusions, and even sexual contact. Other common bacterial diseases include strep throat and staph infection. Such bacterial diseases are commonly treated with antibiotics.

hands-311366_960_720There are some simple yet important steps you can take to fight off germs:

  • Washing your hands is crucial, and you should do so using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. It is worth noting that, if necessary, antibacterial soap should be avoided. There have been no studies showing it to be better than regular soap, and it may in fact breed stronger and more resistant bugs.
  • Make sure your vaccinations as well as your children’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccines play an important role in protecting against common diseases.
  • Have good nutrition and take supplements. A healthy diet is important for your overall health. Make sure that you avoid eating any meat that is raw or under-cooked, and thoroughly wash utensils. Vitamin C and zinc also support in fighting off the common cold and flu viruses, and garlic, ginger root and cinnamon also serve as great immune boosting properties.