Blog

Edema: Swelling of the Legs, Ankles and Feet

Edema: Swelling of the Legs, Ankles and Feet | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Edema is a common condition that causes swelling of the legs, ankles and/or feet due to a buildup of excess fluid, with many potential causes including but not limited to the following:

• Prolonged periods of sitting or standing.
• Venous insufficiency due to tiny valves inside the veins of the legs. (This can also lead to varicose veins.)
• Chronic lung disease, such as bronchitis, emphysema, or COPD.
• Congestive heart failure.
• Low protein levels due to malnutrition, kidney or liver disease.
• Pregnancy.
• Use of certain medications.
• Flights due to high-altitude exposure.

Along with the aforementioned causes, weather can also be a contributing factor for edema, as it is much more common in the summer months when the temperatures are warmer. Edema can also occur as a result of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis), which develops as a result of a blood clot forming in a deep vein – usually in the legs. This condition can also cause swelling – and, if left untreated, can be life-threatening, as it may lead to a pulmonary embolism.

Symptoms of edema can vary from person to person. Aside from swelling of the legs, ankles, and/or feet, one may also notice that their skin appears stretched or shiny, or their skin may retain a dimple (also known as a pit) after it is pushed for several seconds. If you ever develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, have trouble breathing, or experience chest pain, you should seek immediate medical attention as these can be signs of pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema is caused by congestive heart failure as a result of the heart not being able to efficiently pump blood. That blood can then back up into the veins and move through the lungs, which reduces oxygen levels.

Sometimes edema can be diagnosed based on symptoms alone. In other cases, your doctor may refer you for certain medical imaging tests, such as an X-ray or electrocardiogram, as well as blood tests. These tests are typically done to make sure there are no blockages in the leg’s arteries and to also make sure you don’t have any bad valves within the veins of your legs. As for treating edema, it depends on the cause. Once the cause is determined, the focus then shifts to correcting that cause. One of the best ways to reduce swelling of the legs, ankles and feet is to elevate them above heart level. Applying ice to the affected area can also sometimes be beneficial. It’s also important to reduce your intake of salt. Dr. Ali Ghahary also recommends the use of compression stockings or bandages. A compression stocking or bandage will not only help keep the swelling down, but will also protect the affected area from things like injury, extreme temperatures, and pressure. If you’re someone who sits for long periods of time, try to take breaks and get some movement in. The more you’re moving around and getting things circulating, the less likely you are to develop edema. If you think your edema may be caused by any medications you are taking, speak with your family physician or pharmacist. You may need a change in dosage or have to switch to a different medication depending on the circumstances.

You can find more information on swelling by visiting HealthLink BC.

Vertigo: Not Just Your Average Dizzy Spell

Vertigo: Not Just Your Average Dizzy Spell | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Do you have frequent dizzy spells? Does the room feel like it’s spinning? Then you may suffer from vertigo – a debilitating (and sometimes chronic) condition that affects as many as 1.5 million Canadians to-date.

While vertigo itself is a bit of a mystery (which oftentimes makes it a difficult condition to diagnose), what we do know is that the dizziness associated with vertigo is the result of improper function of the peripheral vestibular system (including structures of the inner ear) or the central vestibular system (including the brainstem, cerebellum, and vestibular nerve.) It can also be caused by a wide range of other medical conditions including but not limited to certain viruses, head injury, stroke, tumours, migraines, genetic conditions, or autoimmune diseases. If you are a sound engineer, have been in the military, or play contact sports (such as football or hockey) then you are at an increased risk of developing chronic vertigo as a result of vestibular concussions. In an interview with CBC, Chris Hadfield, Canadian astronaut and author, also said that life back on earth had proven to be somewhat challenging, having experienced motion disturbances and dizziness for some time after turning from the International Space Station.

One of the most common reasons why vertigo is so difficult to diagnose is due to the range in which the symptoms can vary from person to person. For example, a symptom or symptoms that one individual with vertigo experiences will most likely not be the same symptom or symptoms that another person will experience. The most common symptom of vertigo, as mentioned, is dizziness. You may also develop loss of balance, nausea, a headache, ringing in the ears, sweating, as well as abnormal eye movements. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and may even come and go throughout the day. The best thing to do if you experience any of these symptoms is to rest, but also make sure you book an appointment with your family doctor or go to the nearest available walk-in clinic – especially if the symptoms are persistent and recurring.

Treatment for vertigo all depends on what’s causing it. However, most cases of vertigo will go away on their own. If the vertigo is caused by an infection or inflammation, medication (such as antibiotics and NSAIDs) will be prescribed to help relieve symptoms. Treatment may also include vestibular rehabilitation – a type of physical therapy that helps strengthen the vestibular system, as well as something known as canalith repositioning maneuvers which is done through a series of very specific head and body movements. If vertigo is caused by a serious underlying medical condition, like a brain injury or tumour, getting treatment for those issues may also alleviate the symptoms associated with vertigo. In rare cases, patients with vertigo may also require surgery. Though, as with many medical conditions, surgery is always done as a last-resort option and when all other treatment attempts have been unsuccessful.

Aside from vertigo, there are other medical conditions that may cause dizziness, including but not limited to severe ear infections, age-related imbalance, and motion sickness. It’s also not uncommon to develop dizziness as a result of having the flu. For more information, visit BC Balance and Dizziness at balanceanddizziness.org.

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Arthritis affects as many as 4.6 million Canadian adults and is a condition that we often associate as part of the aging process. While this is somewhat true, arthritis can actually occur in individuals of all ages, including children. When a child is diagnosed with arthritis, it is referred to as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA). Currently, an estimated 1 in 1,000 (that’s approximately 10,000) Canadian children and teenagers are living with Juvenile Arthritis today.

Now, you’re probably wondering what the difference is between the average, everyday arthritis diagnosis and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. The term “juvenile” refers to the fact that the individual diagnosed is young (typically those aged 16 or younger), the term “idiopathic” means of unknown origin or cause, and the term “arthritis” refers to inflammation of the synovial membrane which lines the joints (such as the knees and ankles.)

Symptoms of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis are very similar to that of an adult diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, though it will affect each child differently and symptoms can change in severity from day to day. The most common symptoms that a child with JIA may experience include joint and muscle pain, stiff joints, as well as swelling of the joints. Certain forms of JIA and related disorders/diseases can also cause skin rashes, fatigue, fevers, and even eye-related complications. Symptoms also vary depending on the type of arthritis your child has been diagnosed with, and there are at least 6 other categories, including Juvenile Dermatomyositis, Juvenile Lupus, Juvenile Scleroderma, Kawasaki Disease, Mixed Connective Tissue Disease, and Fibromyalgia – all of which affect the muscles, bones and joints, as well as other parts of the body such as the skin, and internal organs such as the kidneys. You can find more detailed information on these JIA-related conditions here.

As mentioned, arthritis can affect anyone, but there are certain types of arthritis that adults can be diagnosed with that children cannot, and vice versa. For example, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. While there’s still a chance that children could be diagnosed with either of these forms of arthritis, it is a rare occurrence and not something that is often seen.

When it comes to Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, early diagnosis is key. In fact, if diagnosed early enough, nearly 80% of all JIA cases become inactive and no other signs of the disease are present. However, if left untreated or diagnosed too late, there may be permanent damage done which can cause long-term problems throughout a child’s life and well into adulthood. Getting early treatment is also crucial in preventing that permanent damage from occurring. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as NSAIDs) are commonly used to treat Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. These types of medication help to ease pain, reduce swelling, and decrease stiffness. In addition to medications, doctors also usually recommend children get light to moderate exercise in every day or as many days as their bodies allow (depending on the severity of their symptoms.) It’s also helpful if your child maintains a healthy weight. Along with these tips, children can also benefit from seeing a physiotherapist or occupational therapist to help preserve function of the joints and minimax long-term damage.

For more information on this and other forms of arthritis, visit Arthritis.ca.

Tips to Help You Beat the Heat

For some, summer is the best time of year. It means warmer weather and getting to spend more time outdoors. For others, however, the sunshine and warmer temperatures can be quite uncomfortable. Whether you’re someone who simply hates warm weather or are someone who needs to take extra precautions to protect yourself from the summer sun (young children or those who are elderly, for example), family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary has some tips to help you beat the heat.

1. Stay Hydrated
As a family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary stresses the importance of staying hydrated. Drinking water is important regardless of the season, but it’s especially crucial during the summer. The warmer the weather is (and the longer you stay outdoors), the easier it is for you to become dehydrated. If you’re going to be outdoors, make sure you have a bottle of water with you at all times. If you’re going to be indoors, aim to drink at least 8 full glasses of water each day. By drinking water you will help keep yourself hydrated and help regulate your body temperature. Check out all the other benefits of drinking water here.

2. Wear Loose Clothing
The tighter the clothing you wear, the more your body will sweat, so it’s important to dress in loose-fitting clothing during the warmer season. You should also wear lighter coloured clothing. Dark colours tend to attract the sun, while light colours will reflect the sun. You should also avoid wearing clothing that is made out of synthetic fabric, as they will constrict air flow. Instead, opt for clothing made out of cotton, as it’s much more breathable for the skin.

3. Keep Windows and Doors Shut
You might think that leaving windows and doors open is a good idea, but you may actually be letting in heat as opposed to keeping it out. Depending on the time of day, the sun may be beating down on your house – or in a particular room of your house. This is why, during the sun’s peak hours, you should keep doors and windows closed. Once the sun begins to move or sets, then you can open windows and doors as you’ll start to feel more of a breeze.

4. Use Fans and Air Conditioning
Fans can be a great way to make you and your home feel cooler during the summertime. Oxalating fans are the best, as they move airflow around as opposed to pointing it in one direction. As a better alternative, air conditioning can also cool down your house (or car) quite significantly – and nowadays you don’t even need to have a technician come and install air conditioning in your home, as there are many different types of portable A/C’s available that require little to no installation. They can generally be found at most home hardware stores.

5. Apply Ice
If you just can’t seem to cool down no matter what you try, applying ice to the body can help keep you cool. Simply buy and ice (or gel) pack and apply it to the body’s cooling points. These include the wrist, neck, insides of the elbow, insides of the knees, ankles and inner thighs. These are all areas where blood vessels are closer to the surface of the skin, therefore you’re likely to cool down quicker if ice is applied to these areas. Alternatively, cold showers are another great way to cool down the body.

MORE SUMMER HEALTH & SAFETY TIPS

Tendonitis Prevention and Treatment

Tendonitis Prevention and Treatment | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Tendonitis is a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) that causes inflammation or irritation of the tendon. It’s often caused by overuse of the wrist but may also be caused as a result of rheumatoid disease or infection. Anyone can develop tendonitis, though it’s more common in adults. As we age, our tendons become less elastic, making it much easier for them to tear.

Along with the wrist, tendonitis can also occur in other areas of the body including the knees, hips, shoulders, and elbows. Partaking in certain activities such as writing, typing, painting, cleaning house, shoveling snow, raking, carpentry, and playing sports (such as tennis, baseball, basketball, or skiing) can also cause tendonitis. You’re also at risk of developing tendonitis if you have poor posture, pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or a thyroid disorder, develop an infection in the hand, or simply by doing too much at once. Pain caused by tendonitis can build from mild to severe, and sometimes it can even be sudden. It is usually described as an aching pain, and the patient may also experience some swelling of the affected area.

Dr. Ali Ghahary says the best way to prevent tendonitis is to avoid anything that causes excessive stress to the tendons. For example, if you develop tendonitis as a result of typing or writing for prolonged periods of time, you should take a break from doing so for at least a few days to a week if possible. You should also mix up the activities you do. If you’re able to pinpoint tendonitis to one specific activity, try doing something different. In some cases, tendonitis may be a result of not using certain equipment properly; for example, exercise machines. If this is the case, it may be beneficial to either have a personal trainer or find someone who is able to teach you how to use the equipment properly. You should also stretch. Stretching will not only help improve your range of motion, but it will also significantly minimize trauma.

Diagnosing tendonitis is fairly easy to do. In many cases, a diagnosis can be made based off of a patient’s symptoms alone. However, in some cases the patient may need to be referred for an x-ray in order to confirm if tendonitis is present as well as rule out any other causes. When it comes to treating tendonitis, Dr. Ghahary recommends a wide range of different things. As mentioned, you should always avoid putting any extra stress on the tendons. You can also try over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen or Naproxen. These medications will help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with tendonitis. Wearing a wrap or compressive bandage, or icing the affected area, can also help reduce pain and inflammation. If the tendonitis is severe, your doctor may recommend a corticosteroid injection, though corticosteroids are generally not recommended as a long-term method of treatment, as frequent injections can actually weaken the tendon and worsen the condition. To help stretch and strengthen the muscles and tendons, physiotherapy can also be helpful. A physiotherapist is someone who specializes in helping bring back a patient’s range of motion through different exercises and techniques. If you would like to see a physiotherapist your doctor can set you up with a referral. You may also need to see an orthopaedic surgeon, but that is usually done as a last-resort method once all other avenues have been exhausted.

The Common Signs of Aging

The Common Signs of Aging | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Aging is something that happens to all of us. In fact, the aging process begins as soon as we’re born. What you might not understand, however, are the different dynamics of the aging process. Aging is often associated with changes in physiological, biological, psychological, behavioural, environmental, and social processes.

One of the most common tell-tale signs that we’re aging is the greying of hair as a result of the body stopping its production of melanin, which works alongside pigment cells in the hair follicles.

As we age, our bones also become weaker and reduce in size which can lead to a condition known as osteoporosis (the reduction of bone mass.) Osteoporosis is quite common in seniors and puts them at an advanced risk of dangerous falls, which can cause severe injuries and even death. In fact, falls are one of the most common causes of injury-related deaths among seniors today.

The older we get, the slower the heart pumps blood. The heart also enlarges, and its walls may thicken, which blocks blood flow and can lead to things like heart attack or stroke. To improve heart health, it’s important to get regular exercise and consume a heart-healthy diet (such a lean protein, lots of fibre, as well as fruits and vegetables and whole grains.) Because malnutrition can be a problem for seniors, it’s also recommended that they take supplements.

You may also be able to notice aging by the way your skin looks. For example, it may look wrinkled, may have lost its elasticity, may appear dull in colour, have dark spots, or feel dry. While these skin changes can occur in anyone as they age, they are especially likely in those who are smokers. The best thing you can do for your skin to prevent the appearance of aging is to not only quit smoking, but drink plenty of water and use a good moisturizer. This will reduce dryness and also help to bring back the skin’s healthy glow. You can find more skincare tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary here.

If you notice a change in taste or smell, this also isn’t uncommon, as we also have a decreased reaction to stimuli as we get older. Because of this decreased reaction, however, you may develop a reduced appetite or may not smell or taste things as strongly as you once did.

As we age, the teeth also change. We become much more susceptible to cavities as we get older. This is due to the layer of protection over our teeth, known as enamel, wearing out and becoming thin. Aside from an increased risk of cavities, if you have decreased enamel then it’s also not uncommon to develop sensitive teeth. For this, dentists recommend using special toothpaste such as Pronamel or Sensodyne. Gum disease is also a risk factor that is associated with aging. Gums can be sore, bleed, or recess. To prevent gum disease it’s not only important to brush and floss regularly, but you may also find gargling with salt-water rinse to be helpful in healing sore gums, as well as using a mouth rinse. Because seniors can develop so many problems with their teeth, it’s not uncommon for them to opt to have their teeth extracted and get dentures instead. Still, just because you have dentures doesn’t necessarily mean your gum problems will go away, so you should always practice good oral hygiene regardless. Your mouth and teeth will be happier, and so will your dentist!

Last but not least – stress. Facing the prospect of aging can be difficult, and often makes us wonder how much time we have left on this earth. That being said, stress can actually increase the aging process quite significantly, as well as impact the health in a number of other different ways, so it’s important that you remain as stress-free as possible.

Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Self-Care Tips

To make sure your health is where it needs to be, it’s always a good idea to see your family physician at least once a year for a thorough examination. However, in-between the time that you don’t see your physician, there are also things that you, yourself, need to do to keep up good health. This is called self-care. Self-care isn’t just important for your physical health. It’s also important for the mind and soul, too. For some, lack of self-care comes from feeling as though they don’t have enough time. For others, they might feel selfish; especially if they have a family of young children to take care of…but when you don’t set aside some time to take care of yourself mentally and physically, your own health not only declines, but the relationships with the people around you can also take a nosedive. Below are just a few suggestions from Dr. Ali Ghahary to help you along on your self-care journey.


SET BOUNDARIES: This is crucial, especially if you’re always running around doing things for other people. While work and school projects are important, overextending yourself can also happen in your personal life too. For example, you might do a favour for a friend, followed by another favour, then another favour. Sometimes those favours may start to feel like expectations, or friends will not no problem asking for future favours from you in the future without taking into consideration the time and effort the other person has to put into it. Sometimes you may even find yourself feeling obligated to do things for other people just because. No one’s saying not to be nice, but you also need to have the ability to say “no” and set boundaries with others when necessary. Lack of boundaries can lead to things like stress and exhaustion, and when that occurs the unhealthy relationships begin to develop.

UNPLUG: Part of setting boundaries also means begin able to unplug from the world for a bit. This means taking time away from social media, turning off your smartphone, computer and/or tablet, and completely un-connecting. One of the biggest mistakes people make in terms of technology is continuing to check e-mails and do work even while on vacation. While some jobs require you to be on-call and available, not all do. Similar to setting boundaries, it may also feel like an obligation, while it can also simply be a matter of being addicted to technology – a very real problem that not only affects today’s generation, but anyone who is used to being attached to any kind of electronic device. Prolonged use of these electronic devices can lead to eye strain and fatigue, as well as stress. By unplugging from the electronic world, you can spend more time in the real world. If you’re not keen on the idea of unplugging completely, try to limit yourself to so much electronic use per day. For example, check your e-mails and social media when you wake up in the morning. You should avoid using electronic devices before bad as this can disrupt your ability to get a proper sleep.

HAVE FUN: As mentioned, self-care isn’t just about the physical aspect of your health. It’s about the psychological aspect, too. Finding something you enjoy is a great way to take care of yourself. Whether it’s reading a book, going to a movie, listening to music, gardening, going for a walk and exploring nature, or learning something new. Doing any single one (or all) of these things can be fun, and when you’re having fun the mind is also happier and healthier.

CREATE: If you’re an artistic type (or even if you’re not), another great self-care activity is to sign up for some type of painting or drawing class. If you’re a musician or have interest in music, sign up for some kind of music class. Alternatively, you can also write in a journal. Creativity is a great, positive way to release negative energy, as well as a great, fun and unique way to do something just for yourself.

RELAX: It’s important to understand that you don’t always have to be doing something. For people who are constantly on the go, this can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it’s an important one. If you overexert yourself, you’re more likely to feel fatigued, stressed, and even less motivated to do things in the future. So make sure you take time to relax and realize it’s okay to do nothing sometimes. Relaxation comes in many different forms, too. You can take a nap, watch a movie from the comfort of your own couch, meditate (which is also great for the mind), or go to a spa for a massage.

OBSERVE: Something that often happens to those who don’t take the proper amount of time to take care of themselves is that they really don’t know that that’s what they’re doing to begin with, and it’s important to recognize the signs. If you’re feeling sad, stressed, depressed, angry, or overwhelmed, these may all be signs that you’re doing too much – either for yourself or for others – and need to slow down.

MORE SELF-CARE TIPS

Are Bathroom Beauty Products Harming Your Health?

Are Bathroom Beauty Products Harming Your Health? | Dr. Ali Ghahary
Certain soaps and body wash may contain harmful ingredients. | Dr. Ali Ghahary

If you’ve ever suffered from oily or dry and irritated skin, the problem may not actually be your skin itself and may instead be the work of regular (or new) use of certain soaps, body wash, or other bathroom beauty products. While many people have no problem using these items, those with sensitive skin or underlying skin conditions, like psoriasis and eczema, may actually find that the aforementioned products either contribute to their skin irritation or make the aforementioned conditions worse. The problem with this is that many types of soap, body wash, perfumes, etc. all contain a long list of different chemicals and ingredients that the skin simply can’t handle. If this is the case for you, you’ll need to find products that are gentle enough on the skin to be used each day without causing harm – but first, you need to know what to stay away from.


Triclosan
As mentioned in a previous article from Dr. Ali Ghahary, Triclosan as an ingredient that is commonly found in antibacterial soap. However, it has been noted that antibacterial soap is no better than your average bar of hand soap in terms of killing off bacteria and keeping things clean. Triclosan has also been linked to a variety of problems with the endocrine system, such a thyroid disease and weakened immunity, as well as an increased risk of developing allergies, asthma, and even eczema. In addition to soap, Triclosan can also be found in certain toothpastes and deodorants.

Dioxane
Dioxane is a product that is found in many personal care/hygiene products, as well as a wide range of cosmetics. According to EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, it has a hazard rating of 8, which is extremely high, and is also considered a carcinogen. Common problems linked to using products containing Dioxane include irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs, as well as organ system toxicity. Because dioxane is a something that is created through the combination of other chemicals, you’re not likely to find it on the ingredients list of any products you own. However, if any of the products you do own contain polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxethylene, or PEG, then there’s a good change they contain dioxane too, therefore those are products you will want to avoid.

Parabens
A world you’re probably familiar with but may not really be sure what it is, parabens are commonly found in bars of soap. Parabens include ingredients such as methylparaben, butylparaben, and propylparaben, which are all found in soap and other cosmetic products. Studies have suggested that parabens mimic the activity of the hormone estrogen found in the body’s cells. While there has been no scientific evidence that has confirmed whether or not parabens are harmful or if they’re linked to cancer as has been suggested, many companies now make their products both paraben and sulfate-free for those who might have concerns.

Formaldehyde
This is something that is used in many cosmetic products such as nail polish, body wash, cleansers, shampoos and conditioners, and eyeshadow. Formaldehyde is known to cause allergic reactions and skin irritation, and may also be harmful for the immune system.

For more information on these and other ingredients you should watch out for, click here.

Inflammation: What Is It and How to Fight It

Inflammation: What Is It and How to Fight It | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Arthritis. Colitis. Pancreatitis. Tonsillitis. Sinusitis. All very different medical conditions with very different symptoms, but all having one thing in common: Inflammation. The ending of each of these conditions, -itis, is the medical term that is used to describe inflammation, which can be chronic or acute. So what is it, exactly? Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response and an attempt at beginning the healing process by removing harmful stimuli. Without an inflammatory response, the body would not be able to heal damage to tissue, heal wounds, or rid itself of infections.

Symptoms of inflammation vary from person to person and are also dependent on whether or not the inflammation is chronic or acute. Acute inflammation is often broken down into three different characterizations: Pain, redness, immobility, swelling, and heat. Areas that are inflamed are likely to be painful, it’s also not uncommon to develop redness and swelling as a result of a buildup of fluid and capillaries filling with more blood than usual, which can also cause the inflamed area to feel warm to the touch. In addition, depending on the area of the body that is affected, inflammation can also result in temporary loss of function – for example, the legs. Symptoms of chronic inflammation can also be similar, but they may also present in other ways, such as joint pain, fatigue, mouth sores, chest pain, abdominal pain, fever, and even a rash.

While infections are a common cause of inflammation, having inflammation doesn’t always mean that an infection is present. Acute inflammation can be the result of a respiratory tract infection, or it can be the result of something as minor as an ingrown toenail that then becomes infected, having a scratch on the skin, or even high-impact fitness. Certain physical traumas can also result in inflammation. If inflammation is acute, it is typically a rapid onset, and only likely to last for a few days to a week. Chronic inflammation, however, is considered long-lasting (from months to years) and can be the result of stress, hormones, asthma, peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, hepatitis, food allergies, trigger foods (such as dairy, fatty red meats or cured meats), food additives, sugar, alcohol, and even certain household products/chemicals. Chronic inflammation is also caused by pathogens in the body that are unable to break down, whether it’s from a virus, a foreign body, or simply an overactive immune response.

Having an autoimmune disease can also cause inflammation. These include everything from type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, celiac disease, and more. If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, you are likely to suffer from some or several of the following symptoms: Fatigue, ache muscles, swelling and/or redness, low-grade fever, numbness and tingling of the hands and/or feet, hair loss, skin rash, and you may also have trouble concentrating. On some days these symptoms may be worse than others, and they may also come and go. If you go a certain length of time being symptom-free only to experience symptoms again, this is known as a flare-up.

Often described as a steady aching, throbbing, pulsating, stabbing or pinching sensation, inflammation can be incredibly painful, making it hard for someone suffering from chronic inflammation to go about their usual day to day activities such as school, work, or attending social functions and other fun events such as sports or live concerts. Because of this, it is not unusual for someone with chronic inflammation to also develop issues with their mental health, such as anxiety or depression.

The most important part of treating inflammation is reducing the symptoms. As pain is the most common symptom associated with both acute and chronic inflammation, physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary will usually recommend their patients take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, also known as NSAIDs, to try and relieve that pain as well as decrease the level of inflammation within the body. NSAIDs work by counteracting the enzyme that contributes to inflammation, which can either prevent the inflammation from occurring all together or significantly reduce the pain that is caused by the inflammation. Common NSAIDs include Aspirin and Ibuprofen, which can be found at any pharmacy, as well as Naproxen, which is also available at pharmacies or can be written as a prescription by your family doctor or specialist. It is important to note that long-term use of NSAIDs can increase the risk of developing stomach ulcers, which may result in bleeding with can be severe and sometimes life-threatening, and they can also worsen the symptoms of asthma, may lead to kidney damage, and can also increase the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. To reduce this risk, Dr. Ali Ghahary recommends avoiding long-term use of NSAIDs and trying Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) instead. While this type of drug won’t actually reduce inflammation, it can still reduce the pain that is associated with inflammation itself. While Acetaminophen also comes with risks associated with long-term use, it is considered a much safer medication for those who require prolonged relief. As a more natural way of relieving inflammation, several foods are also known to help, including fresh fruit such as blueberries and orange, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, nuts, tomatoes, and olive oil. For more healthy eating options, click here or follow Dr. Ghahary on Twitter and Instagram.

What Your Body is Trying to Tell You

What Your Body is Trying to Tell You | Dr. Ali Ghahary

The human body is a rather interesting and intricate machine. We’ve all been under the weather at some point in our lives, and many of the time there are often precursors or warning signs leading up to certain illnesses. Much like a computer, when the body begins to shut down or something goes awry, it usually doesn’t happen without reason, and will send us little signals to let us know that something is off kilter. Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary has put together a list of some common conditions and their associated warning signs that your body may be signalling off to let you know something’s just not quite right.

Frequent or Recurrent Colds/Flu
A common cold or flu virus doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It usually begins with a sore throat and runny nose lasting for 2 to 3 days, which then leads to the worsening of those symptoms and more; i.e. nasal congestion, cough, fever, nausea, and vomiting. If you do happen to develop a cold or flu virus, this is a sign that your immune system has weakened and is in need of a boost – even more so if your colds or flu are recurrent. While most bugs are viral in nature, they can also be bacterial, which means the body works extra hard to fight off infection. As a result, patients will need to be put on a course of antibiotics to help rid themselves of the infection that is present. Along with prescribed medication, there are certain things you can do to decrease your chances of developing recurring colds or flu viruses – such as drinking more fluids (water is great for your overall health, as is orange juice (unsweetened), as oranges contain vitamin C which is great for improved immunity) and getting vaccinated. It’s also important not to overexert yourself and get plenty of rest when sick. Doing too much too soon may set you back and put you at risk of complications, such as the development of pneumonia. You can read more about common colds and the flu virus here.

Headaches
There are many reasons why one might suffer a headache. You may be overtired from a long day at work or school, or they can also be the result of caffeine withdrawal (i.e. from cutting back on coffee consumption or not drinking enough throughout the day.) Headaches can also turn into migraines, which can be chronic in nature. A headache that is very severe and one that you can describe as being the worst headache you’ve ever had in your life may also be indicative of a very serious medical emergency, such as a brain aneurysm, and should not be ignored.

Dehydration
Dehydration is very common, especially during the summer. As the weather improves and gets warmer and sunnier, we often find ourselves spending more time outdoors, sometimes not realizing just how harmful the heat and the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be. If you do become dehydrated, the body will let you know. As a result of dehydration, you may have a dry mouth, develop headaches, feel fatigued, dizzy, nauseated, may vomit, and have decreased urine output. The best way to reduce the effects of dehydration is to increase your water and electrolyte intake. If you are severely dehydrated, you may require admission to the hospital where you will be given fluids intravenously and monitored for a few hours before being released.

Bowel Irregularity or Constipation
One of the most common reasons why you might develop bowel irregularity or constipation (the inability to have a bowel movement) is because you’re not including enough fibre in your diet. To get yourself regular and to loosen stools, you need to increase your fibre intake (it’s recommended that we get at least 35 to 40 grams of fibre per day.) Fibre can be found in legumes and plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains.

Fatigue
If you’ve worked a long shift, studied extra hard, spent a few hours taking that final exam for school, or had an intense workout at the gym, then you’re probably going to feel tired – that much is a given. However, if you feel tired all of the time or wake up feeling like you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, this could be an indicator that something more serious is at play aside from your usual day-to-day activities. Chronic fatigue is one medical condition that results in extreme fatigue or tiredness that does not go away, even after rest. Unrelenting exhaustion can also be signs of a concussion, infection, anxiety disorders, liver or kidney disease, thyroid disease, anemia, and even cancer. So, if you’re feeling unusually exhausted, you should let your family doctor know as he or she will most likely send you for additional testing.

It all boils down to this: While some health problems can be relatively minor, others may be serious, so it’s important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you and seek medical attention whenever something doesn’t seem or feel right, as it’s always better to be safe than sorry.