Blood Transfusions: Who Needs Them and Why?

Dr. Ali Ghahary - Blood TransfusionsBlood is a vital part of the human body. It is responsible for the transportation, protection and regulation of different substances; from supplying the body with essential substances and nutrients such as oxygen, sugar and hormones, as well as the removal of waste, in addition to acting as a clotting agent. Without it, our bodies would not be able to properly function.

A large percentage of Canadians have required blood transfusions, and many hospitalized Canadians need blood transfusions every day. Canada has one of the safest blood systems in the world. To ensure that blood donation is safe for the intended recipient, the Canadian Blood Services requires that donors meet certain criteria prior to making their donation. This criteria includes being over the age of 17, meeting certain height and weight requirements, as well as having good overall health. However, it is also important to note that not everyone is eligible to donate blood. To find out whether or not you are eligible, the Canadian Blood Services has a list of the ABC’s of Eligibility on their website at blood.ca.

A blood transfusion can be necessary for a number of reasons, with the most common one being anemia. Anemia can be caused as a result of a severe injury (i.e. from a traumatic event such as a car accident), being iron deficient, having kidney disease, liver disease, having an infection or infections that stop the blood from producing properly, and even certain cancers that cause the blood cells to produce at a decreased rate, such as lymphoma or leukemia. A patient may also require a blood transfusion after surgery due to blood loss.

There are certain risks and complications that can occur as a result of giving blood. For those who are donors, it is not uncommon to notice some local bruising around the area in which the needle was placed. Typically this bruising will go away on its own after a few days. If you are having localized pain, over-the-counter pain medication such as acetaminophen can provide you with some relief. It’s also not uncommon to feel faint/lightheaded after donating blood. To avoid fainting, you will be asked to stay at the blood donor clinic for at least 15 minutes before you are allowed to leave, and may also be asked to eat a light snack. It’s also important to drink additional fluids (at least 16 oz.) for up to 2 days after donating blood.

Similarly, blood recipients are also faced with complications and risks – including allergic reactions, fever, iron overload, and a rare but serious condition known as acute immune hemolytic reaction that causes your body to attack new red blood cells and produce substances that are harmful to your kidneys. When receiving blood, your doctor has weighed the risks and benefits.

If you have any further questions about blood donation, Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends contacting the Canadian Blood Services by calling 1-888-2-DONATE.

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How to Stay Healthy This Fall

As summer transitions into fall in just two weeks time (the first day of autumn is September 22nd), Vancouver physician, Ali Ghahary, has put together a list of tips on how to better prepare yourself for the changing seasons.

How to Stay Healthy This Fall

As flu season approaches in November, it’s not a bad idea to get the flu shot a bit early. Typically, many clinics and pharmacies around Vancouver and surrounding areas will offer the flu shot as early as October. If you are high-risk (such as a senior over the age of 65, have a previously diagnosed chronic illness, have a weakened immune system or are pregnant), Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends getting the flu shot. It is also recommended for children under the age of 5. There are many types of flu strains, and it is a highly contagious illness, so it’s always a good idea to protect yourself against it. To avoid influenza, always practice good hygiene habits such as regular hand washing, keeping your mouth and nose covered when coughing, and avoiding contact with others who are sick.

Along with the fall also comes gloomier weather – this means more clouds and rain than sunshine. As a result, we’ll be spending more time indoors than out, which means our intake of Vitamin D will be decreased. To ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends taking a Vitamin D supplement. Taking Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and it also boosts your immune system and your mood. Click here for more surprising benefits of Vitamin D.

Daylight savings also occurs in the fall. On November 5th, we’ll be turning our clocks behind an hour. This means that there will be longer periods of darkness, and as a result you will be getting some extra sleep. However, some people often have trouble with daylight savings as it can make you feel as though your sleep pattern has been significantly disrupted. Despite getting that extra hour of sleep, it’s still important to go to bed at a decent time and make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night so you feel well-rested the next day. For those who suffer from insomnia, Dr. Ali Ghahary shares some tips on how to fight it on his website at alighahary.ca.

You may also notice a change in your skin during the colder fall months, and even into winter. Cooler temperatures can cause skin to become pale, dry and flaky, so it is important to keep your skin moisturized. You can also still wear a sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin, your family physician or dermatologist will be able to recommend something to you.

Staying active is also important! With the change in weather you may be less inclined to exercise outdoors. However, there are still ways you can keep fit at home. If you don’t have exercise equipment, doing stretches and yoga are great ways to stay physically active. Many community centres also have drop-in sessions available and some even offer free fitness classes.

Also remember to keep eating healthy. In-season vegetables broccoli, squash, kale, cabbage, and other dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and romaine lettuce. You can find much more information on healthy eating by clicking here.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Thousands of Canadian women are currently living with ovarian cancer. It is the 5th most common cancer in women today, and by the end of this year the number of those diagnosed with the disease is expected to reach an estimated 2,800.

There are several myths that surround ovarian cancer. For example, many women believe that having regular pap testing can actually detect ovarian cancer early. However, contrary to that belief, pap tests can only screen for cervical cancer by detecting changes to the cells of the cervix. When it comes to ovarian cancer, it can only be detected from a pap smear if it is in an advanced stage. A transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test known as CA-125 can also both be useful diagnostic tools; however, there is no one definitive test that can be used to determine whether or not ovarian cancer is present when it’s pre-symptomatic. Another myth that is commonly associated with ovarian cancer is that the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine can prevent it – however, this is not the case. While the HPV vaccine can protect against genital warts and cervical cancer, it does not protect against ovarian cancer.

As mentioned, CA-125 blood testing and transvaginal ultrasounds are currently the two main diagnostic tools used to help detect or monitor ovarian cancer, though they are not conclusive. When your CA-125 levels are high, this does not necessarily mean that you have ovarian cancer. Having elevated CA-125 levels could mean the recurrence of a tumour/malignancy – however, those elevated levels can also be the result of a number of other non-cancerous health factors, too. If your CA-125 levels have decreased, this typically indicates that cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, has been effective.

Ovarian cancer typically affects women over the age of 55. Its’ cause, however, is unknown; though there are certain risk factors one should pay attention to. Women also have a higher chance of of developing ovarian cancer if there is a history of it in their family.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer are often non-specific, and individuals with ovarian cancer may not even be aware that they have it. Common symptoms of ovarian cancer include bloating, feeling full quite quickly after eating, abdominal or pelvic pain, as well as urgent/frequent urination. That being said, it is always important to remember that just because you have some or all of these symptoms does not mean you have ovarian cancer.

This is why, as part of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Dr. Ali Ghahary and physicians from all across the country, as well as Ovarian Cancer Canada, are hoping to incase awareness on this deadly disease as well as find screening improvements, which will then hopefully lead to a decrease in the ovarian cancer death rate.

If you would like more information on ovarian cancer, you can visit Ovarian Cancer Canada’s website at ovariancanada.org. Also be sure to follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter and Instagram to join in on the conversation about #OvarianCancerAwareness.

Acne Prevention and Treatment

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions affecting teenagers and young adults in Canada between the ages of 13 and 30. It occurs when the body produces an excess amount of an oily substance known as sebum, causing the hair follicles of the skin to become plugged. Once these follicles become plugged, bacteria then begins to thrive which results in inflammation and the formation of pimples – known as acne.

Ali Ghahary - Types of Acne
Types of Acne

Certain factors, as outlined below by Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, can also contribute to acne.

Hormones
This is due to the increase in androgens that cause the sebaceous glands to become enlarged and produce too much sebum. Hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy can also affect how much sebum the body produces, in addition to the use of oral contraceptives.

Medications
Corticosteroids and lithium, as well as other drugs, have been known to trigger or worsen acne. If you are concerned about a medication you are taking and suspect that it may be contributing to an acne problem, it is important to discuss those concerns with your physician or pharmacist.

Diet
It’s always important to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. By eating a healthy diet you not only lessen your risk of developing many diseases, but it is also great if you’re looking to lose weight or maintain a weight that is healthy. For more information on the benefits of healthy eating, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog here. As for how a diet can affect acne, studies have shown that carbohydrates such as breads and potato chips, as well as certain dairy products and chocolate, can actually trigger acne. Eating foods that are low in carbohydrates and cutting out dairy and sugar will help you avoid acne flare-ups.

Stress
Those who experience anxiety tend to develop acne or have their acne worsen as a result, though researchers aren’t exactly sure why. On the contrary, having acne can also cause stress and make an individual feel insecure about their appearance. That being said, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends reducing stress as much as possible. One great way to do this is by exercising regularly – and it doesn’t even have to be strenuous. Going for a 30 minute walk or doing yoga can help calm the mind. In cases where stress and anxiety is more severe, Dr. Ali Ghahary may recommend prescription medication in addition to outpatient therapy with a counsellor, psychiatrist and/or clinical psychologist. If stress and anxiety remains untreated, you are at an increased risk of developing depression or other mental illness’.

Ali Ghahary - Acne

Along with treating some of the aforementioned underlying conditions, acne can also be treated by using special cleansers that are specially designed and recommended by dermatologists. Many cosmetic companies also offer acne-specific products. If the acne is severe and no other treatment methods have helped, Dr. Ali Ghahary may also prescribe topical creams and oral antibiotics such as tetracycline or clindamycin.