Supporting Patients With Chronic Illness

Chronic disease definitionChronic illness can oftentimes be difficult to treat; they can be complex and multifactorial in nature. Even more so, they can be debilitating on the patient, physically & emotionally draining, and can significantly impact one’s quality of life.

Some examples of chronic illness include certain health conditions such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis), kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and even chronic pain such as migraines and fibromyalgia. Other forms of chronic illness also include depression and anxiety, diabetes, allergies, and even chronic pain disorders such as migraines and fibromyalgia. Many times a chronic illness may actually be referred to as “invisible” illnesses – meaning that while the patient may not necessarily look ill via their outward appearance, they still feel ill.

invisible illnesses

When a patient is diagnosed with a chronic illness, it means that the illness itself does not have any specific cure. There are, however, ways in which underlying symptoms that are associated with chronic illness can be treated. For example, a patient living with MS can take medications in effort to slow down the progression of the disease as well as cut down the number of flare-ups in which they might experience including fatigue, weakness, visual problems and pain; while patients with cancer will usually require antiemetic medication (such as Ondansetron) in order to ease nausea as a result of chemotherapy treatment.

Dr. Ali Ghahary
Vancouver Physician Dr. Ali Ghahary

As a primary care physician in Vancouver, Dr. Ali Ghahary plays a major role in being part of a patient’s support system – whether it’s prescribing medication, conferring with specialists, or simply being there for patients and their families by addressing any concerns they may have.

As mental health in those living with chronic illness can also be severely impacted, Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends patients seek outpatient therapy – either with clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, or licensed therapists – in order to further discuss the ways in which their mental health might be affected by their illness and for better coping methods.

To find a therapist in your area, visit counsellingbc.com. There are also great resources available via the Canadian Mental Health Association at cmha.ca.

Cataract Awareness Month

Your eyes are an integral part of your health. In order to ensure your eyes are healthy, Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends having regular eye exams with an optometrist. To find an optometrist closest to you, visit the College of Optometrists of BC’s website at optometrybc.com. There, you will be able find information on optometry offices that are accepting patients as well as detailed information on the role of optometrists.

Throughout the entire month of June, Dr. Ali Ghahary and the Canadian Association of Optometrists are working to raise awareness on cataracts and eye health as part of Cataract Awareness Month. Currently, there are close to 3 million Canadians the have cataracts. While cataracts are painless, they are a leading cause of vision loss, which is why treating them is so important. Cataracts are often discovered during a routine eye exam with your optometrist. They develop within the existing lenses of the eye, and can form in one or both eyes – at the same or different times.

Optometrist
It is important to have regular check-ups with your optometrist

The lenses of the eye are made up of protein and water that works to keep the lens clear and allows in light. However, when those proteins clump together or harden, the light is then blocked from reaching the retina and affects one’s vision.

Blurred vision is a common sign of cataracts

Upon initial diagnoses, a patient may not even be aware that they do have a cataract, as they initially do not impact your vision. However, over time, the cataract can grow larger, which then makes it harder to see. Along with cloudy or blurred vision, other signs of cataracts include difficulty seeing at night, the need for brighter light when reading, trouble distinguishing colours or seeing colours that appear faded, double vision, and frequent eyeglass prescription changes. Over time, individuals with cataracts may notice glares from lights and also have an increased sensitivity to light.

There are different types of cataracts that one can develop:

• Age-related cataracts
• Traumatic cataracts
• Radiation cataracts
• Congenital cataracts
• Secondary cataracts

Age-related cataracts are the most common and are usually found in older individuals. However, it is also possible for them to develop in someone as early as the age of 40. Traumatic cataracts are the result of injury to the eye by blunt force (such as a first or ball hitting the eye) or penetrating injury (such a sharp object entering the eye) and can happen at any age. You can develop traumatic cataracts as soon as a few weeks of the injury itself, or months to years later. Radiation cataracts occur as a result of prolonged/overexposure to UV radiation – either from sunlight or tanning bed. Individuals who work outdoors are more susceptible to developing this type of cataract, and should take precautions by wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection as well as wide-brimmed hats. Babies can also be born with cataracts – this is known as congenital cataracts and they are usually inherited as a result of the mother having a certain illness or infection during her pregnancy. Surgery is usually needed in order for the child’s vision to normally progress. Other medical conditions such as diabetes or long-term use of oral steroids can also cause cataracts – this is referred to as secondary cataracts.

In the early stage of cataracts, your vision may improve with new eyeglasses, different/brighter lighting, as well as anti-glare sunglasses. However, if those simple measures have no benefit, then surgery will be the only effective way to treat cataracts, which involves removing the affected lens and having it replaced with an artificial lens.

While cataract surgery can seem scary, Dr. Ali Ghahary notes that it is safe. It usually takes no longer than 15 minutes to perform, and and the recovery should be uneventful and without complication as long as you follow the post-op directions provided to you from your surgeon. Upon surgery, a patch will be placed over your eye – this is to protect your eye from bright light. Some surgeons will allow you to remove the patch a few hours after surgery, while others will request that you leave it on for a few days. Upon removal of the patch, do not be alarmed if your vision appears blurry or cloudy. It may take some time for your vision to adjust. Your eyes may also appear red or bloodshot after cataract surgery, but this will dissipate. Following your surgery, you may also be provided with antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops. This is to help prevent infection and reduce any inflammation. Your surgeon will make a foll0w-up appointment with you – approximately 1 week after surgery – to see how you are feeling and to make sure that the healing process is going as it should.

Avoiding Misdiagnosis

While the exact number of misdiagnosed patients is unknown, it is, unfortunately, something that can occur in healthcare. A misdiagnosis can have devastating consequences and can even be fatal, which is why it is imperative for physicians to come up with the correct diagnosis.

In order for a diagnosis to be accurate, patients and healthcare providers, such as doctors, lab workers, nurses and other specialists, should work together as a team. It is also important for physicians to build a good rapport with patients. This will also allow for open and honest communication – something that is extremely important to Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary. On his website, alighaharyvancouver.ca, Dr. Ghahary discusses why it is so crucial to build trust in the doctor-patient relationship. In utilizing a gentle and compassionate approach, he has quickly become one of the top-rated doctors in Vancouver today.

Dr. Ali Ghahary understands that it is important to take the healthcare complaints of patients seriously.

Patients can also play a significant role in helping physicians be able to accurately diagnose any ailments…

First and foremost, never hesitate to ask questions. There is absolutely NO question that you could ask that would be considered wrong, stupid or embarrassing, especially when it pertains to your health.

Secondly, you should be precise about describing any symptoms that you may be experiencing; for example, if you have a sore eye, do not just say, “I have a sore eye.” Is it red? Itchy? Painful? Letting your doctor know exactly how you feel is of the utmost importance. You should also track your symptoms. For instance, if you suffer from chronic migraines, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends patients keep what is known as a migraine diary. As migraine intensity and symptoms can vary from one day to the next, keeping track of them will help give your physician a better understanding of exactly how migraines affect you, what some of the common triggers are, and what kind of treatment is best suited for you. A great app to help keep track of migraines is Migraine Buddy, which is available for download on Google Play (Android) or the App Store (iPhone.)

Lastly, keep an up-to-date list of all medications. You should be aware of exactly what you’re taking and why, the dosing instructions, and you should also be aware of any potential side-effects or interactions with any other medication.

Skipping Meals Can Lead to Health Problems

Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, has always been a strong advocate of healthy eating – promoting healthy diets and weight management to all of his patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic.

In previous blogs, Dr. Ali Ghahary has written about the importance of healthy eating…but what about skipping meals all together?

Eating three meals per day is important and has many advantages – not only does it help you spread calories throughout the day, but you are more likely to feel satisfied and not as hungry. If you’re the type of person who snacks all day, you may find it more difficult to keep track of calories and you’re also less likely to make healthy food choices. By spreading out your meals, you allow your body time to digest and utilize all of the nutrients that it needs, making you feel more energized. If you eat large amounts of food in one sitting, your body is more likely to increase the speed of digestion, which can lead to stomach aches, diarrhea, and even fatigue.

By now we’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is because the body fasts for up to 8 hours while sleeping. By eating breakfast, you help to get your brain functioning and body moving. When choosing your meals, it is important to pick foods from each of the different food groups: Fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.

Skipping meals means you will be low on the nutrients your body requires, such as proteins, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. You are also at an increased risk of developing certain diseases such as heart disease and type II diabetes. Individuals who skip meals are also more likely to snack on junk food and skip exercise.

In order to maintain nutrients and healthy levels of cholesterol, insulin, and have normal blood pressure, our bodies need to be fed healthy and fed regularly.

You can visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog on Blogspot for more information on diets and exercise.