Understanding Lupus

Lupus, also commonly known as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (or SLE), is a chronic condition that occurs when the immune system cannot tell the difference between intruders and good tissues – then targeting the healthy tissues and organs in the body – i.e. the muscles, joints, lungs, heart, blood vessels, kidneys and skin – which results in inflammation and pain. Currently, an estimated 1 in every 1,000 Canadians between the ages of 15 and 45 suffer from lupus, with more individuals being diagnosed with Lupus each day. Though lupus affects both genders, it is found to be more predominant in women than men.

The list of early signs and symptoms of Lupus is lengthy. Some of the signs and symptoms include: Chronic fatigue, painful muscles and joints, arthritis, a low-grade fever, skin rash, light sensitivity, hair loss, mouth ulcers, loss of appetite, dry eyes, as well as abnormalities of the blood such as having a low platelet count or being anemic. Individuals with lupus are also at an increased risk of developing other health problems such as kidney, lung and heart disease, as well as the development of blood clots. It is important to remember, however, that the symptoms of lupus will vary from person to person.

Different ways Lupus can affect the body

Lupus can occur as three types of cycles:

1. Acute – Where symptoms happen abruptly and are severe, requiring medical attention – but are usually only short in duration.
2. Chronic – Where symptoms may persist but are not as severe as an acute flare-up.
3. Remission – Where symptoms will disappear for an extended period.

While there are no definitive answers as to what, exactly, causes lupus, research into the condition has discovered that there may be hormonal, environmental and genetic elements to it.

Since there is no specific cause of lupus, family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary in Vancouver will instead treat the symptoms that are associated with it. Commonly prescribed medications to treat the symptoms of lupus include anti-malarial medications as well as anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDs (Naproxen, Advil, etc.) Immunosuppressant medications may also be prescribed to control severe flare-ups, but it is not recommended that they be taken on a long-term basis as they can come with side effects as well as increase your risk of infection and other health problems down the road.

If you would like more information on lupus, including self-help resources and details on Government-supported programs that are offered to those with lupus, please the Lupus Canada website at lupuscanada.org.

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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.

Acne Prevention and Treatment

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions affecting teenagers and young adults in Canada between the ages of 13 and 30. It occurs when the body produces an excess amount of an oily substance known as sebum, causing the hair follicles of the skin to become plugged. Once these follicles become plugged, bacteria then begins to thrive which results in inflammation and the formation of pimples – known as acne.

Ali Ghahary - Types of Acne
Types of Acne

Certain factors, as outlined below by Vancouver physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, can also contribute to acne.

Hormones
This is due to the increase in androgens that cause the sebaceous glands to become enlarged and produce too much sebum. Hormonal changes as a result of pregnancy can also affect how much sebum the body produces, in addition to the use of oral contraceptives.

Medications
Corticosteroids and lithium, as well as other drugs, have been known to trigger or worsen acne. If you are concerned about a medication you are taking and suspect that it may be contributing to an acne problem, it is important to discuss those concerns with your physician or pharmacist.

Diet
It’s always important to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. By eating a healthy diet you not only lessen your risk of developing many diseases, but it is also great if you’re looking to lose weight or maintain a weight that is healthy. For more information on the benefits of healthy eating, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s blog here. As for how a diet can affect acne, studies have shown that carbohydrates such as breads and potato chips, as well as certain dairy products and chocolate, can actually trigger acne. Eating foods that are low in carbohydrates and cutting out dairy and sugar will help you avoid acne flare-ups.

Stress
Those who experience anxiety tend to develop acne or have their acne worsen as a result, though researchers aren’t exactly sure why. On the contrary, having acne can also cause stress and make an individual feel insecure about their appearance. That being said, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends reducing stress as much as possible. One great way to do this is by exercising regularly – and it doesn’t even have to be strenuous. Going for a 30 minute walk or doing yoga can help calm the mind. In cases where stress and anxiety is more severe, Dr. Ali Ghahary may recommend prescription medication in addition to outpatient therapy with a counsellor, psychiatrist and/or clinical psychologist. If stress and anxiety remains untreated, you are at an increased risk of developing depression or other mental illness’.

Ali Ghahary - Acne

Along with treating some of the aforementioned underlying conditions, acne can also be treated by using special cleansers that are specially designed and recommended by dermatologists. Many cosmetic companies also offer acne-specific products. If the acne is severe and no other treatment methods have helped, Dr. Ali Ghahary may also prescribe topical creams and oral antibiotics such as tetracycline or clindamycin.

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.