What Are Gallstones and How Are They Treated

Gallstones

Do you have sudden pain and/or pain that is rapidly intensifying in the upper right side of your abdomen? What about pain in your shoulder, nausea or vomiting? All of these symptoms may be strong indicators of a gallbladder attack caused by gallstones. Such an attack can last for a few minutes or as long as several hours.

What Do You Do During a Gallstone Attack?

The first course of action (and the most important course of action, at that), would be to book an appointment with your family physician. If you do not have a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a general practitioner from Vancouver, is available to see patients on a walk-in basis at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, BC. It is important to note, however, that this is a walk-in clinic, therefore wait times and closing times may very. To find Dr. Ali Ghahary’s walk-in hours, please visit his website at alighahary.ca/schedule. You can also find out more information by visiting the clinic at brentwoodwalk-inclinic.com and by calling them directly.

What Causes Gallstones?

There are two types of gallstones that can form: Cholesterol gallstones, which are yellow in colour, or Pigment gallstones, which are dark brown or black in colour.

While it’s not clear what, exactly, causes gallstones, healthcare professionals are under the impression that it is a combination of many different factors including too much cholesterol in your bile – resulting in the formation of crystals that then turn into stones, as well too much bilirubin – a chemical that is products when red blood cells are broken down. Gallstones can also be caused by the gallbladder not emptying itself correctly, which can also contribute to the formation of stones.

What Are the Risk Factors?

Certain individuals are at a higher risk of developing gallstones. For example, they tend to occur more frequently in females than males, as well as certain ethnicities such as Native Americans or Mexican-Americans. You’re also at an increased risk of developing gallstones if you are over the age of 40, if you are pregnant, obese, have diabetes, have a family history of diabetes, take any medications containing estrogen (i.e. birth control/oral contraceptives), have liver disease, or have an unhealthy diet (i.e. a high-fat or high-cholesterol diet.)

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Gallstones?

In order to reduce the risk of gallstones, there are certain changes you can easily implement into your life. First and foremost, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends making healthy food choices – particularly foods that are low in fat and low in cholesterol, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poulty and fish, as well as whole grains such as brown rice, bran cereal, oats and whole wheat bread. AVOID foods like chocolate, pizza, creamy sauces and soups. You can find more information on a gallbladder-specific diets by reading HealthLink BC’s ‘Eating Guidelines for Gallbladder Disease’.

It is also important to remember not to skip your meals. By skipping meals or fasting, you actually increase the risk of gallstones, as this can cause bile to build-up in your body until the next time you eat. Also, try not to eat large, heavy meals. Instead, try consuming smaller meals throughout the day. Eating smaller meals tends to minimize the risk of gallstones by constantly removing bile from the gallbladder.

While diet is the primary cause of gallbladder disease, it’s also important to try to maintain a healthy weight. Eating healthy can certainly help with weight loss as well as weight maintenance, but it doesn’t hurt to implement physical activity into your daily routine as well. More information on the many benefits of exercise can be found by visiting Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog on WordPress.

How Are Gallstones Diagnosed and Treated?

Gallstones are diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms as well as medical imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan. Most individuals with gallstones may not even have symptoms nor need treatment. However, this is entirely dependent on how the patient feels as well as the findings of test results.

In some cases, healthcare professionals may take a ‘watch and wait’ approach for any complications to arise (i.e. intensifying pain) before deciding on treatment, while in other cases you may need to be prescribed oral medications to help dissolve the stones.

In cases where there are complications or if the gallstones keep returning, you may need surgery to have your gallbladder removed. This procedure is known as a cholecystectomy.

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Skin Irritation

 

Millions of Canadians live with or have had a skin condition in their lifetime. 20% of Canadians live with acne, while 3 million Canadians have been diagnosed with rosacea and/or psoriasis. Another common condition of the skin is skin dryness, flakiness and/or itching. While eczema is something that is often characterized by these same symptoms, they can also be the result of a change in weather and temperature – particularly in the fall and winter months.

When there is a decrease in temperature, there is also a decrease in the skin’s moisture content. This can then lead to the skin becoming dry, irritated and itchy, flaky, and you can even develop a rash. Even individuals with otherwise healthy skin are at risk. You are also more prone to developing dry, irritated skin if you have any of the pre-existing conditions mentioned above.

While we can’t always predict nor can we change the weather, there are certain steps that Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, says we can all take to ensure that our skin remains healthy – and to also decrease some of those annoying, irritating symptoms that come along with skin dryness.

Since the change in weather and temperature can have a huge impact on our skin, it is important to try not to stay outdoors for extended periods of time. If you find that you will be outdoors for longer periods, make sure you are wearing layered clothing to keep the skin protected (i.e. gloves, scarves, sweater.) People also often think that taking hot showers is good for the skin – but just like cooler temperatures, hot temperatures can also damage the skin and cause it to lose its moisture and natural oils, leading to dryness, irritation and rash.

In order to replenish the skin’s moisture, using a moisturizer is beneficial. There are plenty of moisturizers on the market – it all depends on the type you are looking for. For example, if you have sensitive skin, then you may want to choose a moisturizer that is fragrance-free. Moisturizers can be found at drug stores, cosmetic stores, or online. If you have any questions about which moisturizer is best suited for your skin type, your pharmacist or physician may also be able to answer any questions you have – and, in fact, may even be able to make a recommendation.

Changes in weather and temperature aside, skin problems can also develop due to a number of other reasons, including sensitivity to soap, laundry detergent or other chemicals, an allergy to latex, fatigue, stress, and even bacterial or viral infections.

If you have any concerns about your skin or notice any abnormalities, speak with your physician today. If you do not have a family physician but would still like to speak with a medical professional about your concerns, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to see walk-in patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby.

Health Risks of Poor Oral Hygiene

Did you know that brushing and flossing your teeth on a regular basis does much more than keep your teeth and gums healthy? Good oral hygiene habits also helps to prevent serious illness that you may not have even known could be caused by poor dental care.

Ali Ghahary - GingivitisGingivitis, for example, is the leading cause of bleeding gums, and it affects as many as 1 out of every 2 Canadians. Gingivitis is most commonly caused by lack of oral hygiene – such as daily brushing and flossing. By brushing and flossing regularly, you remove the build-up of plaque. Failure to remove plaque then leads to the gums becoming red, sore and inflamed.

The first step in treating gingivitis is to get a thorough teeth cleaning done by a hygienist. A hygienist has proper dental tools to be able to remove the build-up of plaque that you may not be able to remove yourself by simply brushing. To continue your care and ensure your gums are on a healthy path, the hygienist will usually go over proper brushing and flossing techniques with the patient. Gargling with a warm salt-water rinse or antibacterial mouthwash may also be recommended by your hygienist or dentist, as well as more frequent teeth-cleaning appointments.

By leaving gingivitis untreated, you are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fact that gingivitis can also cause infection of the gums, and the bacteria as a result of the infection can enter into the blood stream, travel directly to the arteries in the heart, and cause a condition known as atherosclerosis – commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries, which can block the body’s blood flow. Bacteria from infected gums can also enter the brain through certain nerve channels or via the blood stream, which can then lead to the development of dementia. You can also develop respiratory infections after a prolonged period of time, and even complications of diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are much more susceptible to dental disease such as gingivitis, so proper dental care is especially important in those with pre-existing health conditions such as this.

Ali Ghahary - Dental Extraction

As mentioned in Dr. Ali Ghahary’s earlier article, lack of oral hygiene can also lead to tooth decay, which can then lead to potentially requiring a root canal – or, if the tooth cannot be saved, extraction. Dental extractions can be hard on the body, and the recovery process isn’t always a fun one. For instance, dry socket (also known as alveolar osteitis) is a common but extremely painful condition that can happen after dental extractions. Dry socket occurs when a blood clot does not properly form (or is lost) in the area of the extraction, leaving underlying nerves exposed, thus causing pain. In order to treat dry socket, your dentist will first clean the area and then place a special dressing in the extraction site to help speed up the healing process, though it can take several days for the pain of dry socket to diminish.

As with any dental procedure, always follow any post-op instructions given to you by your dentist and be sure to see them for a follow-up appointment if you have any concerns or questions. If you are experiencing pain and are unable to make an appointment with your dentist, try using over-the-counter analgesics such as Advil or Tylenol. Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician practicing at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, may also be able to make recommendations until you are able to see your dentist. No appointment is necessary to see Dr. Ali Ghahary; you can view his walk-in schedule by visiting alighahary.ca/schedule.

If the pain becomes unbearable then a visit to the emergency room may be warranted.

Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer

Ali Ghahary - Prevention of Pancreatic CancerPancreatic cancer affects as many as 5,000 Canadians each year and is one of the deadliest forms of cancer that an individual can be diagnosed with. Because of the way in which the pancreas is positioned in the body (deep in the abdomen and in front of the spine), symptoms of pancreatic cancer will often be silent until the cancer itself has metastasized, which makes it a difficult cancer to treat.

Once the cancer has metastasized, signs and symptoms that a patient might experience include abdominal pain that radiates to the back, lack of appetite, weight loss that is unintended, fatigue, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). With pancreatic cancer it is also not uncommon to develop a new-onset of diabetes, blood clots, and even depression. As many other health conditions can cause similar symptoms, it is still important to book an appointment with your family doctor. If your family doctor is unavailable, Dr. Ali Ghahary welcomes walk-in patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby.

While survival rates of pancreatic cancer have increased over the years, it is still considered to be a form of cancer that is predominantly incurable. Currently, the one-year survival rate of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 20%, while the five-year survival rate is just 7%.

In order to diagnose pancreatic cancer, your physician may order a blood test. Blood testing can check the levels of certain proteins in your blood. If these are elevated, it may be an indicator of pancreatic cancer. Imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI’s and ultrasounds may also be used, and a biopsy may also need to be performed in order to further test certain cells and tissus.

Ali Ghahary - Blood Test for Pancreatic Cancer

There is no definitive way to stop a patient from being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However, there are certain preventative measures a patient can take in order to help prevent and lower their risk of developing pancreatic cancer in the future, such as making certain lifestyle changes.

One of the biggest causes of pancreatic cancer is smoking. Quitting smoking can significantly lessen the risk of pancreatic cancer, and it can also have a positive impact on many other aspects of your health. For some helpful information on smoking cessation, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s article on Medium.com.

It’s also important to stay at a healthy weight. Individuals who are obese are at an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, although it can still affect individuals of all shapes and sizes and is a type of cancer that does not discriminate one way or the other. Dr. Ali Ghahary shares insightful tips on the importance of healthy eating, and even recommends specific low-carb diets, which you can read more about on his blog on WordPress.com.

Lastly, limit alcohol intake. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to cirrhosis – a degenerative disease of the liver, which can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.