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.

The Role of a Family Physician

Family physicians are essential to the health of the general public, providing comprehensive care to individuals within their communities and building positive relationships with those they treat. The role of a family physician is to be an advocate for public health and provide quality, integrated care to individuals and their families; specializing in everything from general health care/routine check-ups, immunizations, ophthalmology, obstetrics, family planning, mental/behavioural health, and even minor surgical procedures. Physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary make a commitment to their patients’ well-being by providing continuing care and establishing an exemplary rapport with individuals under their care, as well as with fellow health care providers.

As of January 2016, the number of active physicians in Canada was an estimated 80,544, with 52% being family physicians and 40% being specialists.

diagnostics-161140_960_720When dealing with illness, it is important for a family physician to exhibit a compassionate, sensitive and empathetic attitude towards the patients’ feelings and the impact that feeling or being ill may have on their everyday lives. A family physician will work with a patient to reach common ground in finding an appropriate treatment plan by using their own knowledge of family medicine in addition to utilizing the best scientific evidence available, as well as providing patients with continued health care management moving forward.

The main objective of a family physician is to help individuals remain healthy by providing patients with health care and treatment plans that are individualized to each unique person. This is done, in part, by asking a patient questions about their current lifestyle (including any drug use, alcohol use, and physical activity), questions about their previous health history, as well as finding out about any history of family illness such as certain diseases or cancer. By physicians finding out this extensive but relevant information, they are able to provide the general public with better overall outcomes of their health as well as significantly reduce disease and death rates. A family physician will always respect the privacy of their patient, utilizing the promise of doctor-patient confidentiality.

To stay up-to-date on current health care and medicine, family physicians will partake in continuing medical education by attending conferences and seminars regularly.

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.