What is Bell’s Palsy?

If your face becomes weakened or paralyzed, you may have a medical condition known as Bell’s Palsy.

Named after Charles Bell, the anatomist to first discover this condition, Bell’s Palsy can affect anyone between the ages of 16 and 16, and it occurs when the nerves responsible for controlling the facial muscles become compressed, inflamed or swollen. As a result, this can cause one side of your face – or in rare cases, both sides of your face – to become stiff and/or droop. You can also experience other symptoms such as having trouble closing your eyes and having difficulty smiling.

Bell’s Palsy usually appears abruptly, and while its exact cause is unknown, it can be triggered as a result of a viral infection, such as the common cold, or even bacterial infections like ear and eye infections. The herpes simplex virus and HIV have also been linked to Bell’s Palsy. You have an increased risk of developing this condition if you are pregnant, have diabetes, a lung infection, or if there is a history of Bell’s Palsy in your family.

In addition to some of the already mentioned symptoms, it’s also not unusual for an individual with Bell’s Palsy to experience other symptoms, including drooling, trouble eating or drinking, having an inability to make facial expressions, muscle twitches, headache, being sensitive to sound, dry eye, and dry mouth. If you are experiencing these or any of the aforementioned symptoms, it is important that you seek medical attention immediately. Certain symptoms of Bell’s Palsy can mimic those similar to a brain tumour or stroke.

In order to diagnose Bell’s Palsy, family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will do a thorough examination on the patient as well as ask questions relating to the patient’s symptoms. You may be provided a requisition for blood tests in order to determine if a viral or bacterial infection is present, as well as medical imaging tests to check the facial nerves.

In most cases, Bell’s Palsy will usually go away on its own, though it can take several weeks before you make a full recovery. To help speed along the recovery process, you can try some at-home remedies including holding a moist, warm towel over the face to help relieve mild pain – as well as over-the-counter pain relief medications. If the cause of Bell’s Palsy is due to a virus, you may be prescribed antiviral medication. Corticosteroid drugs can also help to reduce the inflammation associated with Bell’s Palsy.

The Role of a Dietitian

When it comes to healthy eating, making the right food choices isn’t always easy. You may need to change your eating habits due to being overweight, having high cholesterol, or because of food allergies or sensitivities. While family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary can certainly help steer patients in the right direction when it comes to making healthy food choices – such as recommending low-carb diets – you may need additional help from a dietitian.

Just as any other healthcare professionals – such as doctors, pharmacists and specialists – dietitians are just as important to your health and wellbeing. They not only work alongside patients, but also with general practitioners, in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and from time to time you may even find a dietitian in a grocery store providing customers with tips on healthy eating.

An RD (registered dietitian) is a professionally trained individual that is able to counsel patients on food and what it means to have good nutrition – and not only that, but the information in which they do provide is tailored specifically to the client whom they are helping. Meaning that the information in which a dietitian provides to you is given to you with your needs in mind and yours alone, as food that is good for one individual may not be right for another.

In addition to providing patients with counselling on nutrition, dietitians can also provide patients with information on how to combine their healthy eating with other lifestyle changes, such as fitness. Healthy eating and weight loss often go hand in hand. Following the advice of a dietitian or a nutritionist can also help to reduce the risk of diabetes as well as lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.

To find a dietitian in your area, visit the Dietitians of Canada website at dietitians.ca.

Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Tips for Managing Diabetes

If you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes it can be tough to navigate – at least initially. For many, managing diabetes means having to make lifestyle changes, and while it’s certainly not a death sentence, it can still be a matter of life or death if you don’t take the appropriate steps to keep yourself healthy.

The most common form of diabetes is Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin properly – also known as insulin resistance. This can lead to a number of health problems including heart disease, stroke, neuropathy, and of course high blood sugar.

Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, shares some important steps that you can take if you’ve been diagnosed with Type II diabetes – which will not only help control your blood sugar levels, but improve your overall quality of life, too.

First and foremost, make sure you’re eating healthy. Ensuring you’re eating a good, well-balanced diet is something Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends to all of his patients, but it is especially important for managing diabetes.

Certain foods such as carbohydrates (i.e. pasta, bread, grains), milk, candy, canned fruit and starchy vegetables break down into glucose and raise blood sugar levels a lot faster than other foods would. Instead, choose non-starchy vegetables like beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, onions, tomatoes and peppers. You can find a full list of non-starchy vegetables by clicking here. You should also choose other healthy food options such as nuts, whole grains and seeds, and of course limit your sugar intake. When it comes to protein, make sure your choices are low in saturated fat – like turkey or fish. Avoid things like hot dogs and deli meats, as these are foods that are processed and contain little to no nutritional value, and can also increase the risk of high blood pressure. When choosing grains, make sure they’re whole grains – such as quinoa and wild rice. Whole grain bread is also a healthier alternative to white bread. Grains contain a wide variety of healthy vitamins and minerals. Avoid things like pasta and white rice. As for dairy, avoid things like chocolate milk or any dairy product that is full fat. Greek yogurt, for example, is a healthier, low-fat option.

Managing diabetes doesn’t just mean changing your diet, however. It is also important to have a handle on your weight. Being overweight can lead to diabetes or make diabetes worse. Losing weight can not only decrease your blood sugar levels, but it can also decrease the risk of other health complications such as kidney failure and cardiovascular problems.

For more information on both Type I and Type II diabetes, click here.

What is Meningitis?

Meningitis is a serious infection that causes the fluid and the membranes (known as the meninges) that are responsible for protecting the brain spinal cord to become inflamed.

Bacterial Meningitis
Bacterial Meningitis

There are two main types of meningitis: Viral and bacterial. Viral meningitis most common in the summer and autumn months, is the most common form and is the cause of almost 90 percent of meningitis cases. It typically goes away on its own without any treatment required. Bacterial meningitis, however, is the much more serious of the two, and if left untreated can be fatal. There are also rare types of meningitis, including fungal meningitis, which affects individuals who have weak immune systems, as well as parasitic meningitis, which is caused by lakes and rivers that are contaminated. Just like bacterial meningitis, these rare forms can also be fatal, which is why it’s crucial to seek immediate treatment upon the first sign of symptoms.

Meningitis Symptoms - Stiff Neck
A stiff neck is a common symptom of meningitis.

Symptoms of viral and bacterial meningitis can be very similar in nature, although the symptoms of bacterial meningitis tend to be much more severe. Symptoms can come on suddenly and last as long as 3 weeks. They include headache, stiff neck, fever, irritability, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light, and a decreased appetite. Dr. Ali Ghahary again urges the importance of seeking treatment right away if you develop any of these symptoms – even if you do not think that you have meningitis – as it can mean life or death. As meningitis cannot be diagnosed based on symptoms alone, a test called a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) will need to be administered in order to make a definitive diagnosis. A lumbar puncture collects cerebrospinal fluid and checks for any increased pressure of the central nervous system as well as measures the levels of glucose, protein, as well as the white blood cell count. If glucose levels are low, and the white blood cell count and protein levels are high, then this is confirmation of meningitis.

While you’re not likely to catch meningitis simply from walking by/near someone already infected, the risk of transmission and catching meningitis increases if you have prolonged contact with an individual who is already infected. Bacteria from meningitis can be spread through saliva (i.e. coughing, kissing, sharing eating utensils and/or drinking glasses), mucus, sneezing, and even contaminated food.

In order to prevent serious complications of bacterial meningitis, such as brain damage or death, the patient will need to be hospitalized and administered IV antibiotics.

To avoid getting meningitis, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, get enough rest, and avoid contact with those who are sick. There are also certain vaccinations that may be able to fight against some forms of meningitis, and that may be worth a discussion with your primary care physician.