What Causes a Dry Mouth?

Everyone experiences a dry mouth from time to time. You can develop a dry mouth due to a number of reasons – with the most common causes being stress and dehydration. Dry mouth happens when the salivary glands fail to work as they should. If you’re a smoker, abuse drugs and/or alcohol, or are undergoing cancer treatment (such as radiation and/or chemotherapy), it is not uncommon to develop dry mouth.

Certain autoimmune disorders, like Sjogren’s syndrome, can also cause a dry mouth, as can certain medications. In fact, there are over 500 medications known to cause dry mouth, including but not limited to antihistamines, antidepressants, antiemetics, medications used to control blood pressure, as well as sedatives. If you do develop a dry mouth and suspect it may be a result of a medication that you are taking, Dr. Ali Ghahary notes that it is important for patients to know that they should not abruptly stop medications before checking with their family doctor or pharmacist. If medication is a suspected cause of dry mouth, your physician may be able to alter its dosage to see if that makes any difference, or might even recommend a different medication all together.

There are also certain things that doctors, dentists and pharmacists also suggest patients try themselves for relief of dry mouth. For example, chewing sugar-free gum or sucking on sugar-free candy can often help to stimulate the salivary glands, drinking plenty of water during the day, as well as using a humidifier in your home – especially at night. Using an alcohol-free mouth rinse can also help.

If these home remedies are not helpful and you find that you are still suffering from a dry mouth, your doctor and/or dentist may need to prescribe you with a medication to help the function of the salivary glands, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions – like Sjogren’s syndrome – as mentioned above, in addition to lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Treating whatever the underlying cause is will often resolve other associated problems.

Follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram for more facts on dry mouth, as well as for more information on oral hygiene.

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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.

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.