World Meningitis Day

With today, April 24th, being World Meningitis Day, the Confederation of Meningitis Organizations as well as the Meningitis Research Foundation of Canada and others are raising awareness about this potentially life-threatening condition. Their goal and the goal of Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary (and other physicians around the world) is to better educate patients on the signs and symptoms of meningitis in the hope that treatment will be sought before it reaches that life-threatening stage.

Meningitis is a condition that occurs when the lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord becomes inflamed. It is typically spread from close contact with other individuals (i.e. from coughing/sneezing, sharing utensils, etc.) Some of us carry the germs of meningitis without even realizing it.

If left untreated, meningitis can be fatal in a short period of time. Survivors of meningitis that leave treatment too late can have severe consequences such as paralysis, blindness, and deafness. Thus, it is important to seek immediate medical attention at the first signs of meningitis. Some telltale signs and symptoms of meningitis include fever, severe headache, nausea and vomiting – these symptoms are usually present within the first 6 hours. Later signs and symptoms include drowsiness, neck stiffness, cold hands and/or feet, skin rash, confusion, and even coma.

There are different forms of meningitis. Aseptic meningitis, also known as viral meningitis, is the most common. It is most prevalent during the summer and fall months, is usually less serious and rarely life-threatening if treated early. Most of those infected with viral meningitis typically recover within 5 to 10 days. Bacterial meningitis is more severe. It can progress quickly and be fatal within 48 hours or less. The first sign of bacterial meningitis is flu-like symptoms. Fungal meningitis, while rare, can also be serious. Fungal meningitis occurs in individuals who have compromised or weakened immune systems (i.e. from cancer, diabetes, etc.) and premature babies with low birth weights. It is treated with ant-fungal medications.

While most recover from meningitis without any after-effects, that is not always the case. Certain issues can arise after meningitis, which can be temporary or permanent. This includes memory loss, trouble retaining information, difficulty concentrating, residual headaches, weakness, paralysis, speech problems, changes in eyesight, and more. Children may also develop disturbed sleep, changes in character, as well as other behavioural problems.

Vaccines are an affective way to protect against bacterial meningitis. They work by creating antibodies against the bacteria. As there are many different strains of bacteria that can cause meningitis, one vaccine for a particular bacterium will not protect against the other, so it is important to have the discussion with your physician as to what vaccine is best-suited for you.

Remember, if you notice any of the symptoms of meningitis or are not feeling yourself, seek medical attention immediately and do not wait as it could be a matter of life or death.

For more facts on meningitis, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Instagram at http://instagram.com/alighahary and on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary.

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Health Benefits of Drinking Water

While not everyone considers water to be an important factor in his or her everyday health, it is actually a key component to staying healthy and is fundamental in keeping nutrients circulating properly in your body. The human body is composed of at least 60% of water and plays an integral role in many different bodily functions including digestion, absorption, and maintenance and regulation of body temperature. Drinking water is also a great way to quench your thirst without having to worry about calories that are found in soda and other sugary beverages, which can be low in nutrients and not provide any benefit whatsoever in terms of your health.

If you do not drink enough water each day, you may wind up suffering from dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, dry eyes, urine that is dark in colour, fatigue or dizziness, and nausea that worsens after exercise. When the body is dehydrated, your brain will trigger its thirst mechanism, which is not something you should ignore.

For individuals looking to lose weight, substituting water for beverages that are high in calories can help. It’s also imperative to include foods that are water-rich in your diet, as these are more filling and can also help to decrease your calorie intake. Water-rich foods include fruits and vegetables, beans, oatmeal and broth-based soups. The body absorbs these foods slower, making you feel full.

Staying hydrated also helps with muscle performance and keeps them feeling energized. If you are not getting enough water, muscles will not work as well. It is recommended that you drink at least 17 ounces (a little over 2 cups) of water prior to exercising, and you should also drink water at regular intervals during physical activity to replace the fluids you lose from sweating.

Water also plays a significant role in kidney function. The kidneys are responsible for flushing out toxins. However, if you are not getting enough fluid intake then this becomes difficult for the body to do and you may be at an increased risk of developing kidney stones.

Not only does water help with various parts of your health, but the effects of drinking water can also be noticeable from the outside, too, and keeps the skin looking good. If you don’t drink enough water, your skin can appear dry and wrinkled.

Dr. Ali Ghahary, a physician in the Greater Vancouver area, recommends patients make water their go-to beverage of choice. The Canadian Food Guide also recommends that individuals drink water each day, limiting the intake of carbonated/soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, sweetened beverages and alcohol. These are extremely high in calories and low in nutrients. If you are turned off by water due to its lack of flavour, try adding things like orange wedges, lemon, lime, berries or mint. Other healthy options include 100% fruit juices and fortified soy beverages.

Understanding Inflammation

When Canadians think of inflammation, we often think of it as damage to the body that causes pain and swelling, and even infection. While this is true to a certain extent, inflammation is actually the body’s natural response to something it perceives to be harmful. So while infection is oftentimes easily associated with inflammation, inflammation does not necessarily mean an infection is present. Inflammation occurs by releasing chemicals from the white blood cells, which assists in protecting the body from and removing any damaged pathogens, cells or other irritants. A bacterium, fungus or virus causes infection, and inflammation is simply the body’s response to it. When inflammation is present, this means that the body is trying to heal itself. If inflammation did not occur, our bodies would never properly heal.

There are two types of inflammation that can occur. Acute and Chronic. Acute means the rapid onset of inflammation, which can become severe but has a short healing period. Acute inflammation can be the result of having a sore or scratch throat caused by the common cold or flu, bronchitis, skin wounds, dermatitis, appendicitis or sinusitis. Unlike acute inflammation, chronic inflammation is long-term and can last from months to years. Chronic inflammation can be caused by the failure to eliminate acute inflammation as well as other persisting irritants. It can result in several diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, hay fever, and even certain cancers. Chronic sinusitis, asthma, and digestive orders such as Crohn’s disease are also linked to chronic inflammation. Signs and symptoms of inflammation can include pain to the affected areas (especially upon touch), redness, swelling, and the feeling of warmth.

Autoimmune diseases can also result in inflammation. An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system issues a response to otherwise healthy tissues and mistakes them for pathogens or irritants that are harmful. Examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, lupus, psoriasis, and fibromyalgia.

In certain cases, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, Canada, will prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms associated with inflammation. These medications include anti-inflammatories known as NSAIDs – such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen, and are used to treat inflammation and pain. For more information on chronic pain management, visit alighahary.blogspot.ca. Corticosteroids such as Prednisone are also commonly used to treat inflammation. As these drugs can result in serious side effects and other health conditions, it is not recommended that they are taken long-term unless otherwise noted by your physician.