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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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.

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) is a condition that prevents the lungs from getting enough oxygen due to the build-up of fluid in the lung’s air sacs called the alveoli.

Some of the most common causes of ARDS include aspiration, pneumonia, septic shock, the inhalation of chemicals, as well as traumatic injury. Those who smoke or drink alcohol are also at a higher risk of developing ARDS.

When the lungs become built up with fluid, their ability to expand then decreases. Consequently, you will then exhibit symptoms such as rapid breathing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, as well as low blood pressure and even organ failure – such as kidney or liver failure.

In order to accurately diagnose ARDS or other problems with the lungs, Dr. Ali Ghahary will listen to a patient’s chest with a device known as a stethoscope. The stethoscope allows for Dr. Ghahary to hear any abnormalities in a patient’s lungs. If it’s suspected that the patient has Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and their blood pressure is low, they may have a pale appearance as well as a blue-ish tinge to the skin and nails. This is caused by lack of oxygen. Other tests that are performed to diagnose ARDS include complete blood counts, urine cultures, sputum cultures, chest x-rays and bronchoscopies.

As many as 10,000 Canadians die each year as a result of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. As this can be a life threatening condition, ARDS usually requires hospitalization for treatment – often in an intensive care unit (ICU). While in the intensive care unit, the patient will be sedated and they will be placed on a ventilator. The main goal of the ventilator is to not only provide the patient with large doses of oxygen, but to also help the lungs recover. Diuretics, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatory drugs are also often prescribed to patients with ARDS.

Though it can take several months to years, patients with ARDS can recover quickly. Some patients, however, may have long-term respiratory problems, including difficulty breathing, fatigue, weakness, and even depression. In order to properly manage your lung health, it is important to go to your physician for regular check-ups and immediately report any abnormal symptoms that you’re experiencing.

For further advice on how you can protect your lungs and for other lung-related support services, visit the BC Lung Association’s website at bc.lung.ca.

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.