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.

Solutions For a Better Night’s Sleep

SleepIn a follow-up to an article found on his official website, Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary continues the discussion on natural ways to combat insomnia right here on his WordPress blog.

Insomnia affects millions of Canadians and can be caused by a number of factors, including certain health conditions, medication, or can even be for reasons that are simply unknown. While it can be a complex condition, it can also be easily treated both by medication and with natural remedies.

As previously mentioned, things like chamomile tea and stress management are great, natural and safe sleep aids. Warm milk is another natural sleep solution that has been known to benefit those suffering from insomnia – almond milk, especially, as it is also a great source of calcium.

Ensuring you’re getting enough calcium can also be indicative as to whether or not you’ll get enough sleep each night. Even the slightest marginal lack of magnesium can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest. You can find magnesium in foods like leafy, green vegetables, pumpkin seeds and almonds. You can also find magnesium supplements – however, due to their ability to interact with medication it is important that you first check with your pharmacy and/or physician before taking them.

magnesium

Lastly, sometimes curing insomnia simply comes down to making lifestyle changes. If you tend to surf the internet, watch television or listen to music late at night, try breaking those habits to see if it benefits your sleep pattern in any way.

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.

Common Health Concerns for Men

As anyone would, men also face certain threats to their health as they age. It isn’t unusual for men to go to the doctor less frequently than women. As a result, men are at a much higher risk of developing serious, life-threatening health conditions.

Below, Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary outlines some of the different health concerns amongst men, along with information on how they are diagnosed and what you can do to treat them.

Ali Ghahary - Men's Health Concerns

1. Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer Canada recommends that men be screened for prostate cancer by the age of 40 – this according to new guidelines released in 2013. As of 2016, over 20,000 Canadian men were diagnosed with prostate cancer, and 1 in 8 men will die from it. Prostate screening is initially done by a PSA test – a simple blood test that can determine the amount of PSA protein that is in your blood. Not only can a PSA test indicate whether or not you have prostate cancer, but it can also detect other prostate-related conditions. Common symptoms of prostate cancer include difficulty urinating or having a frequent urge to urinate (especially in the evening), painful urination, or the inability to urinate. Symptoms of prostate cancer are not always present, therefore early detection is important.

2. Heart Disease
While heart disease can affect men and women equally, it is still a health condition that men often worry about. If heart disease runs in your family, you area at a greater risk of developing heart disease yourself. However, other factors also play a part in determining whether or not you will develop heart disease at some point in life – including diet and exercise. It is important to see your physician for annual checkups. At an appointment, Dr. Ali Ghahary will check a patient’s blood pressure and also refer them for basic blood testing, which is often helpful in determining cholesterol levels. If high, this can be a precursor to heart disease.

3. Erectile Dysfunction
While this can be an uncomfortable subject for patients to talk about, it is more common than one might think. According to a recent study done on almost 5,000 Canadian men between the ages of 40 and 80, at least half of those have had ED. Men who have had their prostate removed, have diabetes, and smoke are at a greater risk of developing it.

4. Weight Management
As men age, their metabolism slows down. If your metabolism is slow, your weight can increase. It is important to stay physically fit and make healthy food choices. Read Dr. Ali Ghahary’s articles titled ‘The Surprising Health Benefits of Exercise’ and ‘Weight Loss and Weight Management’ for more information.

While these certainly are not all of the health concerns that men are faced with, they are some of the most common.