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.

Advertisements

Understanding Fibromyalgia

Until recently, Fibromyalgia, a disorder that is characterized by chronic pain, was not always recognized as a legitimate health problem. To date, approximately 3% of Canadians suffer from fibromyalgia, with up to 90% of those cases being women between the ages of 30 and 60.

Certain things, such as car accidents or infections, have been long thought to be a cause of fibromyalgia. Several studies have also suggested that fibromyalgia may be hereditary, meaning you are more likely to develop it if someone in your immediate family also suffers from it. However, many causes of fibromyalgia are spontaneous, thus making it a complex condition for doctors to diagnose.

The chief complaint in patients with fibromyalgia is widespread pain – meaning they cannot pinpoint one specific location where their pain is located. Instead, it affects various parts of their body. However, others may have specific points on their body where the pain is located – such as the arms or legs. Other health conditions, such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), chronic headaches and insomnia, are also linked to fibromyalgia.

As there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, it is Dr. Ali Ghahary’s main goal as a family physician to treat the symptoms that the patient is experiencing.

In lieu of prescribing different pain medications, doctors will commonly prescribe antidepressants or anticonvulsants. As fibromyalgia pain is also thought to be neuropathic related, these types of medications work by targeting the brain’s pain signals and nerves. In 2007, Lyrica (also known as Pregablin) became one of the first FDA-approved drugs to treat fibromyalgia pain, followed by Cymbalta in 2008, and have seen high success rates. Some patients also opt for trying natural treatment methods to help ease the pain associated with fibromyalgia, such as low-impact exercise, and having a diet that is rich in leafy, green vegetables as well as omega-3 fats – both of which are great for reducing inflammation, pain, and provide your body with essential nutrients.

It’s also not uncommon for fibromyalgia to also result in the patient experiencing bouts of depression and anxiety, which is why Dr. Ali Ghahary also stresses the importance of taking care of your mental health and being able to recognize the signs of mental illness. Always remember to speak out about how you’re feeling and have good support system around you.

High-Risk Pregnancy: What Does It Mean?

 

When a medical professional deems a pregnancy “high-risk”, this means that the chances of the mother and/or baby developing health problems are significantly increased in comparison to pregnancies that are not considered to be high-risk.

High-Risk PregnancyWhile being told you that have a high-risk pregnancy can certainly sound scary and seem overwhelming, it doesn’t always necessarily mean that you will run into problems. It’s simply a way for doctors to ensure that you get special attention, and that any problems that might develop during your pregnancy are taken care of early on.

There are a number of factors that can come into place when physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary, as well as other medical specialists, such as OB/GYN’s, make this determination. For example, a pregnancy may be considered high-risk if you’ve ever had problems with past pregnancies, such as preterm labour, or are pregnant with twins/triplets. You may also be considered high-risk if you have health problems such as endometriosis, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and HIV or Hepatitis C. Age can also determine whether or not a pregnancy is considered high-risk – for example, teenagers who become pregnant are more likely to develop anemia or high blood pressure, and are also less likely to seek prenatal care. On the contrary, women over the age of 35 are at an increased risk of developing pregnancy complications, such as excessive bleeding or prolonged labour. Those who smoke, use illegal drugs, drink alcohol and/or lead otherwise unhealthy and unsafe lifestyles are also more likely to have a high-risk pregnancy. All of these aforementioned factors (and more) are taken into consideration when dealing with the health of the mother and baby.

To avoid a high-risk pregnancy, there are certain (and very important!) steps that Dr. Ali Ghahary says every expectant mother should take…

The first step would be to ensure that you are leading a healthy lifestyle. If you smoke, quit! If you drink, stop! These are risky substances that can have a detrimental impact on the health of your child. The second would be to ensure that you have sought out regular prenatal care. By having regular prenatal check-ups, you not only monitor your own health, but the health of your unborn child as well. It’s also crucial to make sure you’re eating a healthy diet when pregnant. You may need to satisfy those random pregnancy cravings from time to time, but it’s also important to get essential nutrients like calcium, iron and folic acid. Many expectant mothers will opt to take a prenatal vitamin to help with the intake of these and other nutrients.

If you have any concerns about your pregnancy or about becoming pregnant, do not hesitate to discuss those concerns with your primary health practitioner.

Vertigo

Dr. Ali Ghahary - VertigoVertigo is a type of disorder that affects your balance. It is often characterized by dizziness or a sensation that you or the room you are in is spinning. In instances where it feels as though you yourself are moving, this is known as subjective vertigo. If it feels like objects are moving or the room you’re in is spinning, this is known as objective vertigo. As a result of these sensations, it is also not uncommon to experience other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, headaches, and even sweating.

When it comes to diagnosing vertigo, it is important to understand that it is not the same as dizziness despite the two words sometimes being used interchangeably. When you are dizzy, you will feel faint, lightheaded, and unsteady…whereas with vertigo, you will perceive yourself or objects to be moving.

Vertigo can last a few hours to a few days, and in some cases may even take several weeks before it settles down completely. There are many reasons why an individual might develop vertigo, including inner ear infections, such as vestibular neuritis. Vestibular neuritis causes the vestibular nerve to become inflamed and disrupts your sense of balance. You can also develop vertigo as a result of a traumatic head injury, or even by moving a certain way – such as standing up or bending over. This is known as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo or BPPV. It can also be a common side effect of medications. If you notice any abnormalities (such as vertigo) while you are taking medications, it is important to avoid operating heavy machinery or driving until you know the side effects have subsided. You should always address any concerns you have about the medications you are taking with your doctor or pharmacy, and also be sure notify them right away of any abnormal side effects. In some cases, your physician may want to change the dose of your medication, or will prescribe you a different medication all together.

Treating vertigo will depend on how severe it is. The best way to prevent vertigo from worsening is to rest in bed and avoid movement as much as possible. When getting out of bed or moving around, it is important to do so slowly and carefully. To treat some of the symptoms that are associated with vertigo, like nausea and vomiting, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends trying over-the-counter antiemetic medications such as Gravol. If that is unsuccessful, a stronger medication called Ondansetron may be prescribed.

If your vertigo worsens or persists, your family physician may need to refer you to an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist or a Neurologist.