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Hearing Loss is Reversible

Lumomed laser restores damaged ear cells.

After working for 42 years as a florist in their small, family-owned shop in Albany, New York, Sandy* and her husband retired at the ages of 67 and 68 respectively, moved to Florida and began living what Sandy calls “the good life.’’Dr. John Lieurance of Advanced Rejuvenation in Sarasota used laser therapy to treat *Sandy’s hearing loss.

As the years rolled on, however, the good life became increasingly difficult, particularly for Sandy, who realized not long before her 80th birthday that she was experiencing the kind of hearing difficulties all too common among people her age.

“I’d be talking to someone and I’d only catch half of what they were saying,” Sandy recalls. “I’d have to ask them over and over again, what did you say? Or if I answered them wrong, they’d give me a funny look and I’d have to explain, I didn’t totally hear you.”

Sandy’s inability to carry on a conversation without constantly asking people to repeat themselves was especially frustrating for her husband, who encouraged her to have her hearing tested. Those tests revealed a hearing loss significant enough to warrant Sandy being fit for hearing aids. But Sandy soon found her hearing aids to be a nuisance.

“I was constantly turning them up higher and down lower,” Sandy complains. “It was a pain in the neck, but I had no choice, because some people talk loud and some people talk soft, so I was always having to adjust them.”

By the time she began her eighth decade of life, Sandy was resigned to the idea she’d need to wear the annoying hearing devices for the rest of her life. Then one day, Sandy’s husband picked up a copy of Florida Health Care News while waiting for an appointment in a doctor’s office.

The publication included an article about an innovative inner ear treatment designed to reverse hearing loss that is performed by John Lieurance, DC, at Advanced Rejuvenation, a regenerative medical practice in Sarasota.

“My husband showed me the article and when I read it, I thought, this sounds pretty good,” Sandy shares.I said to my husband, this is something that can really help people, so we made an appointment and went and checked it out.

Dr. Lieurance is a chiropractic neurologist and naturopath, as well as a certified provider of Lumomed sound laser therapy, which is designed to rejuvenate damaged ear cells. Treatments have been clinically shown to improve hearing loss and reduce the effects of many balance disorders and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.

Sandy says that upon first meeting with Dr. Lieurance, she found him to be “very, very thorough” during her initial examination and consultation, which included a comprehensive hearing test.

“He explained everything – how the laser therapy worked and what I could expect as far as getting my hearing back,” adds Sandy, who accepted Dr. Lieurance’s recommendation to undergo the therapy, a full course of which consists of 15 thirty-
minute laser treatments on each ear.

One of a Kind

Advanced Rejuvenation is the only center in the United States approved to use Lumomed’s protocols. Dr. Lieurance had been treating hearing loss, balance disorders and tinnitus for many years through his functional chiropractic neurology practice when he heard about Lumomed from one of his patients. While in Germany, the patient received the treatment from Dr. Amon Kaiser, who has worked with lasers for more than 30 years.

“My patient got in touch and told me, Hey, this doctor is doing wonderful work in Germany for inner ear regeneration. It would be such a great adjunct to what you’re doing in Florida,”Dr. Lieurance relates.

Dr. Lieurance contacted Dr. Kaiser and traveled to Germany to study the science they had discovered and the methods for the treatment protocols.

“I was so impressed that I brought this back to Sarasota,” Dr. Lieurance states. “It’s phenomenal. I’m constantly looking for the best and most effective technologies to help people with conditions that are considered untreatable. When someone tells me, You can’t do it, it makes me want to do it even more.”

Dr. Lieurance explains the science behind Lumomed this way: Special nerve cells in the inner ear, called hair cells, allow for the perception of sound and are essential for balance. If those cells are damaged, an individual may suffer hearing loss, tinnitus or a debilitating balance disorder such as vertigo.

“We have a great deal of technology today, such as cell phones, iPods® and computers,” he expounds. “That technology, along with sirens and various machines in our environment, make different, high-pitched sounds that are very loud. As a result, the hair cells are highly stressed.

“When these cells are constantly overwhelmed by noise and stress, they cannot process energy correctly,” Dr. Lieurance continues. “With low or depleted energy, the auditory and vestibular cells in the ear lose their ability to do their jobs, and disease results, whether it’s a hearing loss, dizziness or tinnitus.”

The hair cells have their own energy source, which is adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. It is produced by structures inside the cells that act as power plants, called mitochondria. Maintaining the ears when they’re stressed requires vast amounts of energy. Without it, the cells begin to break down.

“Studies have shown that hair cell regeneration is possible,” Dr. Lieurance asserts. “Inner ear laser therapy is performed with specialized laser equipment set at very specific settings. The Lumomed laser showers energy into the ear in the form of photons. This energy is then used by the hair cells to repair themselves.”

Better With Each Treatment

The therapy is most effective for younger patients, who are “developing their language based on what they hear,”
Dr. Lieurance points out. “If we can fix their hearing at a young age, they don’t develop a lot of speech impediments.”

The laser, which is applied while patients wear goggles and lie on a treatment table, emits very little heat. Some people feel the sensation of sunshine, while others feel nothing.

Some patients notice an improvement in their hearing within the first few sessions, Dr. Lieurance informs. For others, it takes longer.

“After the first two treatments, I was told not to wear my hearing aids anymore,” Sandy remembers. “I should just trust that my hearing was slowly getting better, and it did get better with each treatment.”

Today, Sandy can hear as well as she did years ago. She’s living proof that it is possible to turn back time, and that hearing loss is reversible.

“If I hadn’t met up with Dr. Lieurance I would still be wearing hearing aids,” Sandy shares. “People are telling me, Your hearing is back! Your hearing is back! I am very, very happy.”

New Depression Therapies Bring Renewed Hope

College student finds relief through ketamine infusions.

William Storey remembers a childhood filled with hopelessness and loneliness instead of birthday parties and bike rides.

“I was abnormal at an age in which abnormality is very unhealthy,” states William, now 23.

William Storey suffered from emotional problems much of his life but says Dr. Pollack’s treatment has been a lifesaver, giving William hope for the future.

William Storey (right) and his father, Peter, relax during a recent visit with Robert Pollack, MD.

The abrupt and dramatic cultural change caused by his family’s move from Maine to Georgia when he was eight complicated the challenges William already faced. Over the years, he’s been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, severe depression and Asperger’s syndrome, a higher-functioning form of autism.

Generally, Asperger’s patients struggle to communicate with and relate to others. They may lack empathy and have difficulty reading other people’s moods and making friends.

During his early years in private school, William felt isolated and misunderstood, especially by classmates, and by teachers who disciplined him for “being out of control.”

He explains the mindset of those teachers this way: “I like to think of it as, This nail doesn’t seem to be fitting into this particular piece of wood quite the same way the rest of them do, so we should probably hit it more.” 

By the time he reached fourth grade, William wanted to die.

“I hated my life,” he recalls. “I hated everything.”

In seventh grade, William switched to a public school, where he thrived for two years.

“I was a straight-A student,” he notes. “I was well-liked by my teachers. I had no social problems.”

Halfway through his freshman year of high school, however, he “hit a breaking point.”

“I think a lot of it had to do with age, hormonal imbalances, feeling more ostracized from my peers,” William shares. “I had a handful of people that I was at least acquaintances with up until that point. But they stopped interacting with me as much when high school started, for their own reasons.”

He stayed behind when his classmates moved on to tenth grade. As William repeated his freshman year, his conflicts with teachers led school administrators to threaten expulsion if he caused further problems. He managed to finish ninth grade, then transferred to a “less academically rigorous” school.

“It was honestly kind of a joke,” he relates. “I barely did anything, and I still made straight A’s.”

Disappointed and frustrated, he entered an early enrollment program at the University of West Georgia. William lived in a dorm and worked on his high school studies and college classes at the same time.

“I did well the first year,” he points out. “The second year, I had similar problems to when I was in the ninth grade again. It resulted in my father pulling me out of the program and bringing me home.”

More than 18 months later, he was ready to return, but by that time, he was too old for high school. He obtained his GED, but West Georgia didn’t consider that sufficient to re-admit him until William and his family successfully appealed to the state’s board of regents.

Though back in college, he wasn’t back on track. William was desperate for consistent relief from the depression that had plagued him for much of his life, despite taking “nearly every antidepressant on the market.”

Then, last spring, William’s father called Robert Pollack, MD, a friend since their days together at Yale University, to inquire about IV ketamine infusions, a relatively new therapy for treatment-resistant depression.

Finally Feeling Better

Dr. Pollack’s Fort Myers-based practice, Psychiatric Associates of Southwest Florida, embraces newly emerging therapies based on pioneering discoveries about the brain. Those include genomic testing to determine which antidepressant might be most effective according to the patient’s genetic profile, as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and theta-burst stimulation (TBS). Both use magnetic pulses to rouse areas of the brain and relieve depression.

Since 2015, Dr. Pollack has also used ketamine, an anesthesia drug introduced in the 1960s that can alleviate suicidal thoughts and act more quickly than many antidepressants. He estimates that 72 to 75 percent of his patients treated with ketamine have had a positive response.

William traveled to Fort Myers for a series of six infusions over two weeks. Following each 30- to 45-minute procedure, it took him a short while to get his bearings.

“I was very woozy, then I went to the hotel where we were staying, got food and I was fine the rest of the day,” he asserts. “Within two weeks of the initial treatment, there was a definite change. I was far less harsh on myself. I was far less miserable.”

When his depression was at its most devastating, William wouldn’t leave home or interact with anyone.

“By the third treatment, he shook my hand and said, Good morning,” Dr. Pollack reports. “I’ve known him a long time, and that’s a first. People with Asperger’s don’t usually gain a lot of social skills. But William now sits here and laughs. He tells jokes.”

Preventing a “Ruined Life”

William calls Dr. Pollack “a godsend” whose scientific approach is “radically different” from the many other mental health professionals William has seen over the years. He recommends keeping “an open mind about some of the more experimental treatments, because everything has to start experimentally.”

William’s new regimen has him taking fewer medications, which has allowed him to lose weight. He returns once a month for booster infusions. While still “a bit anti-social,” William says he’s getting better and eventually may overcome it.

A student of philosophy, he’s also well on his way to completing his four-year degree at West Georgia in Carrollton, where he has his own apartment and is looking ahead to a career. Teaching is a possibility; so is the legal profession.

“There are so many paths, and I’m not really sure which one I’m supposed to go on yet,” William states. “But I’m also not too bothered by that because at least I’m aware that there is a way forward.”

He’s eager to share his story because he wants people to know how much he and others like him have suffered, he says.

“The way kids with autism tend to be treated, at least in the area I grew up in, is damning,” William declares. “It results in lost lives. Even if they may not end up as suicidal as I was, it really warps a person. It makes it very hard to move on, to be productive, to be happy. And it seems as though people just don’t care, and that really saddens me.

“Misunderstanding may be the cause, but at the same time, I have trouble differentiating between misunderstanding and willful ignorance, because the end result is still a ruined life.”

Brighter days are ahead for those living in darkness, William affirms, and life is worth living.

“There is hope for the future,” he concludes, “that I certainly did not feel a year ago.”

It’s National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month

June 26th, 2018

Migraines are not “all in your head,” and the pain is not only real but may have serious consequences for your life and bank account.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, a time to support those whose lives are often made unbearable by chronic migraines that can be difficult to treat, even with prescription medication.

An estimated 36 million Americans suffer from migraines, but only one of every three talks to a doctor about them, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

A migraine is an inherited neurological disorder in which specific areas of the brain become overexcited, the foundation defines. Sufferers are more susceptible to “triggers” that raise their risk of having a migraine attack.

Those triggers include hormonal fluctuations, weather changes, bright lights, specific smells or foods, alcohol, poor sleep and high stress.

A chronic migraine recurs 15 or more days a month for at least three months and has the features of a migraine at least eight days out of the month, according to the Chronic Migraine Awareness organization.

“Chronic migraine poses a greater impact on the patient’s life than episodic migraine, including lower household income levels, less ability to do chores and more missed workdays,” according to the tax-exempt group’s blog.

The World Health Organization considers migraines one of the 10 most disabling medical illnesses globally, with chronic migraines impacting patients even more severely.

Migraines cost the United States more than $20 billion each year, the American Migraine Foundation reports. That includes direct medical expenses such as doctor visits and medications and indirect expenses such as missed workdays.

“But the burden doesn’t stop there. Those afflicted with migraines are more likely to have depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, other pain conditions and fatigue,” according to the foundation.

“People who have a history of experiencing an aura phase (migraine with changes in vision) have been shown to be at an increased risk for stroke and heart attack,” the foundation adds.

How do you know if you’re suffering from a migraine as opposed to a garden-variety headache? Consider these migraine symptoms:

  • A headache with moderate to severe pain;
  • A headache that worsens with physical activity
  • A throbbing headache that’s often worse on one side of the head;
  • A headache that leads to missed school, work or other activities;
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound or smells during the headache;
  • A headache that lasts four to 48 hours if left untreated.

If your migraines are negatively impacting your quality of life, and over-the-counter medications don’t help, visit your primary care provider, who may refer you to a neurologist or a headache specialist.

For more information on migraines, visit or

Goodbye Floaters

Vitreolysis makes irritating eye debris vanish.

To William Mee, it looked like an insect scurrying across his floor or the fly from the horror movie The Ring that buzzed across the static on a television screen.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

William can once again drive without distractions.

In reality, William was among millions of people plagued by an irksome eye floater, which can show up as a fleck, cloud-like spot, dot or cobweb darting in and out of the field of vision.
William was fortunate that the chronic floater in his left eye didn’t affect his distance sight or hamper him while he drove.
“But it was definitely annoying for close-up stuff because I’m of a generation where I do quite a bit of reading,” shares William, who enjoys a wide range of fiction and nonfiction books, including legal thrillers, adventure stories, biographies and histories. “It’s better than just watching television.”
The floater also vexed him when he used his computer. William sought a solution from a local ophthalmology practice but “received the disappointing conclusion that nothing could be done about this; just put up, shut up, live with it,” he recounts. “At that point, I gave up on it.”
Then he read an article in Florida Health Care News about Peter J. Lowe, MD, of Retinal Eye Care Associates, and how he makes floaters disappear without surgery. The board-certified ophthalmologist uses laser vitreolysis, which is noninvasive, requires no incisions and causes no discomfort. He estimates he’s performed more than 500 of those ten- to 15-minute procedures over the past five-plus years.
William made an appointment with Dr. Lowe at his Delray Beach office last August and underwent extensive testing to check for any retinal vascular diseases, such as macular degeneration, or any retinal tears or detachments.
“Mr. Mee was a relatively unhappy patient when we first saw him in August 2017,” Dr. Lowe reports. “He’s a young, active, sixty-five-year-old man who was having a lot of difficulty seeing out of both eyes, which were otherwise healthy, because of the cloudy vitreous in his left eye. The floater had come on slowly, but then after a while encompassed the entire field of vision of his left eye.
“Mr. Mee was living in a cloudy world even on a sunny day,” Dr. Lowe continues. “When you’re outside in the sun, your pupil constricts, which lets less light into the eye, and if you have a dense enough floater, it can certainly create a visual obstruction. When a floater lets less light into the eye, you can still see things, but they look duller. And then as the floater moves back and forth, sometimes you get clear vision and then the floater comes through your field of vision, and it gets worse. So that’s what he was dealing with, and that’s what ultimately made him come to see us.”

Casting Shadows on the Retina

An eye floater is the debris left after what Dr. Lowe calls “a vitreous detachment.”
“The vitreous is a cellophane-like lining on the inside of the eye,” he educates. “As the eye naturally ages, or after surgery, most commonly to remove cataracts, the cellophane lining will sometimes come loose. Occasionally, it stays in small, almost completely transparent sheets. Sometimes, however, it clumps up into larger debris fields and casts shadows against the retina.
“If you’ve spent a great deal of time and money on cataract surgery to attain excellent vision, then suddenly something’s in your eye, your first thought is something’s happened to your cataract surgery and/or you’re going blind from a problem previously undiagnosed,” Dr. Lowe expounds. “So those people often come in mortified of floaters.
“In a younger person who’s never had surgery, they often demonstrate even more of what you’d call ‘white-knuckle syndrome.’ They’ve looked up floaters or visual blurring on the internet, and they’ve read about everything from retinal detachment to hemorrhages. Everybody always expects the worst to come out of a doctor’s mouth. So, they’re often surprised that floaters are a normal physiologic change to the eye.”
Most acute floaters go away on their own, “passing uneventfully as the jelly that holds them disintegrates, and the floaters tend to move up toward the bottom of the eye,” Dr. Lowe informs. “So, we’re only talking about a small percentage of patients in which what’s floating gets stuck in the vitreous jelly or is large enough to present a significant obstruction.
“No one can really point to any given patient and say floaters will be a problem for that person, nor can anyone point to any individual floater and suggest that it’s going to be a problem as time goes on,” he comments. “Floaters come in different sizes and shapes, and different people have different levels of concern. A floater is not a disease. I tell people it’s a dis-ease. So, it’s often relative to the individual how uneasy seeing a floater makes them.”
In the past, those with persistent, bothersome floaters were told the best option was to do nothing. That’s because not all ophthalmologists perform laser vitreolysis, and the only other effective alternative is a vitrectomy, a surgery to remove some or all of the vitreous jelly which fills the space between the lens and the retina. The procedure carries the risk of infection, retinal detachment, lens damage and other complications.
“My patients have told me how they’ve tried all kinds of oral medications, eye drops or other so-called remedies that promise results but don’t deliver,” Dr. Lowe continues. “Some of the lasers that were used previously didn’t vaporize the floaters but merely fragmented them, leaving more floaters rather than providing a cure.”

After Vitreolysis, Vision Restored

William traveled to Dr. Lowe’s Lake Worth location, where the Ellex Ultra Q Reflex laser he uses is located. After William’s eye was anesthetized with just a drop of topical anesthesia, Dr. Lowe’s precision laser converted William’s loose tissue into harmless gas bubbles, which dissolved into the fluid of his eye.
“It gradually just disappeared,” William marvels. “You could still see a faint outline or something floating in there, but basically after about a month and a half or two months, it was pretty much gone. I was pleased with that. And my vision in my left eye actually improved, so it was like a double bonus.
“All in all, it was a beneficial experience, and I would recommend it to anybody who’s annoyed by floaters.”
William was so pleased with Dr. Lowe and his staff, describing them as “very attentive and very personable,” that he plans to return to Retinal Eye Care Associates for a laser treatment on his right eye.
“No sooner did I get my left eye treated than the same thing showed up in my right,” he notes. “I had Dr. Lowe look at it, and he said, It’s in a perfect location. We can take care of that one for you, too.”

“It Gave Me My Life Back”

Former baseball coach finds relief without drugs, surgery.

Tom Bush has spent a lot of time on baseball diamonds across his 74 years, playing in his younger days before coaching high school teams during his career in education.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Tom enjoys a quiet moment with his grandchildren, Joshua (far left), Mary, Joseph and Javari.

A social studies teacher, he landed his first coaching job in the fall of 1966, in an era when public schools still segregated black and white students. Tom won state championships in his first two seasons coaching prep baseball. After he transferred to DeLand High in 1970, the teams he managed always posted a winning record.
Tom eventually retired and slowed down, as most people do. Among his life’s pleasures are watching college sports and pro football, plus having fun with his grandkids. He has six, ages 12 to 27.
In the summer of 2016, however, Tom began suffering from what he describes as an “awful pain” in his back that nearly ended life as he knew it.
“It was hard to walk or to bend,” Tom recalls. “It cut down on a lot of the things I normally did, like walking a lot and playing with the grandkids. I didn’t feel good about that because I’ve always been active and was used to playing with them. They’d ask, Granddaddy, do you want to come out here and play with us? And I’d have to say, Oh, not today. Granddaddy can’t do it.
Tom’s aching back also made it nearly impossible for him to rest.
“At night, I couldn’t sleep,” Tom recounts. “You just sit there and your eyes are open and you’re saying, Oh, Lord, I’m just miserable. You almost want to give up.”
Tom had no idea why his back was bothering him. He hadn’t strained it lifting anything heavy. He hadn’t had an accident. And he’d never played football or other contact sports.
After three months of agony, Tom heard from a friend at church about Jeremy M. Gordon, DC, and made an appointment for an evaluation at DeLand Chiropractic & Spinal Decompression.
“We did x-rays, which showed arthritic and degenerative changes,” Dr. Gordon reports. “But x-rays have their limitation in that you can’t see the soft tissue. You can’t see the discs or the thickening of those ligaments. You can’t see the nerves and the muscles. Based on the x-ray findings, we treated him accordingly.
“We did some regular chiropractic care, a four- or six-week treatment plan,” Dr. Gordon continues. “While he got some good relief intermittently, his symptoms tended to come back after a period of time. We started digging deeper, and that’s when he had an MRI, which showed the more significant spinal stenosis, multiple disc bulges and nerve impingement issues. What we typically see when there’s significant stenosis or disc issues is that the chiropractic care doesn’t provide lasting relief.”
Graphic from stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, “is usually a consequence of a multitude of things,” Dr. Gordon educates. “Disc issues are one of the most prominent causes. There are also things like arthritic and degenerative changes in the joints of the spine. There’s thickening of some of the ligaments within the spinal canal. The fourth thing that can contribute would be some misalignment, or shifting forward or backward, of bones in the spine.”

Gentle Stretching Is Key

Dr. Gordon suggested that Tom undergo spinal decompression on the DRX9000 system, which he uses because of its precision and reputation for effectiveness. The noninvasive, nonsurgical therapy relieves pressure from bulging, herniated or protruding spinal discs.
It’s also used to relieve spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and neuropathy in the arms or legs, as well as post-surgical neck and/or back pain. Radiating discomfort, numbness or tingling often results from protruding discs in the neck or back that contact or compress nerves extending into the limbs.
“Think of it as an overinflated tire or water balloon that’s being squeezed from above and below so that it bulges or distends outward,” Dr. Gordon explains.
Tom began what the chiropractor calls the “full protocol,” which is 24 visits over ten weeks. The DRX9000 system gently stretched Tom’s spine while he lay on the treatment table. Through gentle motion, the therapy increased his disc space and restored nutrients and hydration to allow his discs to heal.
“It felt really good,” Tom says of the treatments. “The people who administered it were very courteous, very polite, and that helped a lot. They are so happy to work with you and are so friendly. Every time I go in there, they always say, Mr. Bush, how are you doing?”

“Most patients who receive spinal decompression therapy are starting at a pain level of eight, nine or ten on a scale of ten. Most bring that down to a one or a two. Many people become pain free.” – Dr. Gordon

A lot of the arthritic and degenerative changes caused by spinal stenosis are permanent and can’t be resolved without surgically removing ligaments and other tissue, Dr. Gordon points out.
“One of the only things that you can address conservatively in a noninvasive way for severe stenosis is the disc itself,” he adds. “By doing the decompression treatment, you can reduce the size and severity of the disc bulges or protrusions and open up the spinal canal. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change in order to get some drastic results and reduction in symptoms for these patients.
“I’ve seen patients on whom we do pre- and post-decompression MRIs, and the radiologist will indicate a three-millimeter reduction in disc bulging, or something along those lines, and the patient will be totally symptom free. So, it doesn’t have to be a huge, ninety percent reduction in the size of the actual bulge in order to achieve some significant changes.”

Descending the Pain Scale

Dr. Gordon’s usual goal for his patients is a 50 percent improvement in function and a 50% reduction in pain within the first two weeks. He emphasizes, however, that each person’s case is unique, and not all patients achieve the same results.
“Most patients who receive spinal decompression therapy are starting at a pain level of eight, nine or ten on a scale of ten,” he states. “Most bring that down to a one or a two. Many people become pain free.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Tom has resumed his normal routine and is working out regularly.

Tom says his pain was at ten when he started spinal decompression and that he felt better by the third or fourth treatment.
“His pain level had dropped about fifty percent by that point,” Dr. Gordon concurs. “The pain and numbness in his feet started to improve, and that’s something we typically see when we start working on these conditions.
“As that spinal canal is opened up with the decompression, the nerves are not withstanding the same amount of compressive force. As a result, the nerve impulses are able to travel down to the legs and back and forth, and the patient is able to perceive better sensation in the legs and feet, and the pain level decreases usually quite quickly.”
Now, Tom rates his pain at one, and he reports that he has resumed his normal routine. He is also strengthening his back with workouts, though nothing strenuous, at a local fitness center.
“We tell patients if they can follow through with the core strengthening and stabilization exercises that we recommend for them when they’re wrapping up the treatment protocol, it’s very rare that they ever have to come back and do any kind of follow-up on the decompression,” Dr. Gordon stresses.
Though Tom and Dr. Gordon no longer see each other regularly, they share an affinity for one of their community’s landmark institutions: DeLand High School, established in 1922.

“At night, I couldn’t sleep. You just sit there and your eyes are open and you’re saying, Oh, Lord, I’m just miserable. You almost want to give up.” – Tom

Dr. Gordon, who moved to DeLand as a third-grader, graduated with the Bulldogs’ Class of 1991. He was there during Tom’s tenure but never took any geography or history classes from him.
DeLand may be a “decent size” city of 20,000 to 25,000 residents, Dr. Gordon estimates, but it still retains some small-town characteristics.
“It’s not an uncommon thing to run into people that I may have gone to school with or had as a teacher at one time or the another,” he states.
The two men also share a natural rivalry because Dr. Gordon went to Florida State University, while Tom roots for the University of Florida. Tom is also an ardent Washington Redskins booster and often sports the team’s burgundy and gold. The fact that those colors are very similar to Florida State’s garnet and gold was the source of a lot of ribbing from Dr. Gordon.
“Every time I’d wear my Washington Redskins colors, he’d say, Oh, you’re wearing Florida State colors,” relates Tom, who describes Dr. Gordon as a “fantastic guy.”
“He’s very patient, always wants to help you and give you the best solution that he feels is necessary,” Tom adds. “I just enjoy him. He’s a very nice guy.”
As for spinal decompression, “it has helped me tremendously,” Tom raves. “It gave me my life back.”

Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Former boxer and craft enthusiast defeat vision-robbing disease.

For former boxer Michael Harris, the fight to preserve his eyesight has become one of the biggest, most important challenges of his life.
Michael boxed as a light heavyweight while in the Army before turning pro as a heavyweight. While training for a bout in Germany in 2004, his sparring partner, a former champion, hit him in his right eye with a jarring uppercut.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Even glaucoma couldn’t knock Michael out.

“It was a different kind of pain,” Michael recalls. “I heard a click. My vision wasn’t messed up, but I can still remember it.”
Michael went on to compile an undefeated professional record, 11-0, fighting most of his matches in the Tampa area. After spending years in the ring, and at the urging of his wife and his church family, Michael retired from boxing and pursued a more long-term career in law enforcement.
“I’ve met a lot of fighters, some of them have even won championship belts, but they have no retirement, no nothing,” he notes. “So, I got a good job as a deputy with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. It’s a great organization, a great department to work for.”
Although Michael’s professional boxing career was behind him, the near-knockout punch he’d endured introduced complications he never saw coming. He began experiencing difficulty seeing out of his right eye during a strenuous exercise session at his gym last summer.
He assumed the combination of the sweat from the workout dripping into his eyes and the steam from his post-workout shower caused the sudden visual impairment. However, when he arrived at work the distortion remained. When his vision cleared after a bit, Michael dismissed the problem as a minor irritant in his eye.
“The vision problem in my right eye started in August, but it didn’t get bad until December,” he remembers. “I was working and suddenly lost vision in my right eye. I could not see the person in front of me talking. I couldn’t see their mouth moving, and their face was really blurry. I thought, Man, I’m through.”

Dodging a Knockout Blow

Michael immediately scheduled an appointment with his eye doctor, who referred him to Sandra M. Johnson, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist who is fellowship trained as a glaucoma specialist at The Eye Institute of West Florida.
Dr. Johnson soon discovered that Michael was suffering from glaucoma, a disease that threatened to rob him of his eyesight and put his career in law enforcement at risk.
Often referred to as the silent thief of sight, glaucoma can cause irreparable damage before a patient even notices any vision loss or experiences any sort of symptoms. Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure inside the eye due to improper drainage of the aqueous humor, a clear fluid that flows in and out of the eye through a mesh-like channel to nourish nearby tissues.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers carrying information from the retina to the brain. The retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of each eye, is vital to good vision.

It was the hardest punch I ever got hit with, in boxing and anything else in life. -Michael

The two main types of glaucoma are open-angle and angle-closure, which refers to the drainage angle where the iris (the colored part of the eye) meets the cornea (the outer covering). Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma, accounting for at least 90 percent of the cases in the United States.
Because glaucoma is a chronic disease, patients require “continuity of care” that may extend over years and even over multiple generations, Dr. Johnson explains.
“Glaucoma is often hereditary,” she says. “But somebody without a family history can be the first one to get the gene defect. I treated a father who had it, and it was diagnosed in the daughter and grandson. The father went completely blind, and then the daughter became blind in one eye. I operated on the grandson while he was in high school. Each generation did better because they were aware of the disease and began treatment earlier and earlier. This is a typical example of hereditary glaucoma.
As we get older, normal aging with glaucoma will cause these channels to get clogged. When that happens, fluid can build up and the pressure rises. Michael’s glaucoma was worse in his right eye because of the blow he received in training. However, he had glaucoma in both eyes. The trauma he received in his right eye made it most susceptible to damage, but if he hadn’t come in he would have become blind in both eyes from glaucoma.
Michael’s glaucoma was worse in his right eye, the eye that received the blow during training so many years before. Normal eye pressure ranges from 12 to 22. Michael’s readings were dangerously high – 53 in his right eye and 51 in his left – which came as a surprise to him.

“Almost Blinded in One Eye”

“I was shocked because I have six brothers and one sister, and none of them have glaucoma,” Michael says. “It was the hardest punch I ever experienced – in boxing or anything else in life. I thought, Wow. I’d worked out all my life, eating healthy, organic food and something like that just comes along.”
Michael was treated as an emergency patient during his initial visit to The Eye Institute of West Florida. The severity of his high eye pressure required immediate care. He underwent numerous tests and received prescription eye drops to clear his vision and lower his pressures.
Dr. Johnson stresses that Michael had been seeing an optometrist who “fortunately referred him to a glaucoma expert to take care of his problem.
“I took care of the episode of high eye pressure and educated him on his disease and how it could affect his work and life,” she adds. “He was almost blinded in one eye, so I placed him on a regimen he could live with. Now, he’ll see me on a regular basis moving forward to ensure his vision remains stable. He’ll need his eyes for decades longer.”
At his last check-up, Michael’s pressure readings were 12 in his right eye and eight in his left. Thanks to Dr. Johnson’s emergency intervention and skilled follow-up care, he’s able to see well and has returned to his normal daily activities without worrying about sudden loss in vision.
“I go to the gun range – I shoot expert – and I’ve been working out, taking hot showers and nothing bad has been happening,” Michael marvels. “So, it’s been awesome.”

Specialized Care Helps

Gloria Duck enjoys getting crafty, whether she’s sewing clothing, coloring pictures, making greeting cards, working with plastic canvas or creating fabric yo-yos.
“I do it three mornings out of the week,” she shares. “I’m not afraid to be challenged. If somebody else is teaching something new, I’ll learn it.”

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Gloria sees well enough now to thread a needle.

Good vision is vital to Gloria’s ability to do such detailed work, such as making bunnies and chicks from yo-yos, which are gathered circles of cloth secured with a simple running stitch.
“It’s important to see well,” she says. “Otherwise you start rubbing your eyes and saying to yourself, why can’t I see that? I would be very frustrated if I couldn’t see, and I would probably give up my hobby and not do anything.”
Gloria wears glasses while crafting and reading and is especially vigilant about her eyesight because she has glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness in the United States. She’s a winter visitor to Florida from the Albany/Schenectady, New York area. An ophthalmologist in upstate New York has been monitoring her disease.
That physician decided Gloria needed cataract surgery and a procedure called a trabeculectomy to create an alternate drain for the fluid in her left eye. However, the pressure in her eye was still higher than it should have been. Since she was heading south to Zephyrhills, her doctor referred her to the nationally recognized The Eye Institute of West Florida.
After seeing a comprehensive ophthalmologist, Gloria was referred to glaucoma expert Dr. Sandra Johnson. After a thorough examination, Dr. Johnson determined that the trabeculectomy had failed due to scar tissue which had occluded drainage of fluid out of the eye. Although her New York ophthalmologist had prescribed a number of medications, the pressure in Gloria’s eye was still not low enough. Her pressure was 20 but it needed to be half that much.
Though Gloria couldn’t feel the dangerously high pressure, she was at risk of losing even more vision in her left eye.
Dr. Johnson adjusted Gloria’s medications and performed a procedure known as needling. After numbing her left eye, Dr. Johnson was able to carefully dissect the scar tissue that was occluding the drainage and which restored the flow of fluid out of the eye to reduce the pressure.
“She had really good results,” reports Dr. Johnson, who continues to monitor Gloria’s eye pressure.

Why a Glaucoma Specialist?

Many ophthalmologists have been doing glaucoma procedures for a long time. If and when those procedures fail, they refer patients to a glaucoma specialist for either a second procedure or to free the scar tissue that was formed from the first procedure. Having an expert improves outcomes.
Dr. Johnson is the first glaucoma specialist Gloria has seen, and she’s been thrilled to have such expert care during the months she spends in Zephyrhills. She’s been impressed with Dr. Johnson since that first appointment.

I found the staff there very helpful and concerned. I can’t say enough about the practice. I’m very, very glad that I found them. -Gloria

“She’s great, very sociable,” Gloria raves. “She makes me feel relaxed. Dr. Johnson explains everything. She listens. No question is a silly question.”
Dr. Johnson has specialized in glaucoma cases for 20 years and performs between 200 and 300 surgeries on such patients each year.
Dr. Johnson emphasizes that glaucoma specialists have more tools when it comes to taking care of glaucoma patients. “Many of these advanced cases may require surgery at some point in the future. With a specialist, you are getting the best possible care available and have an opportunity for a broader approach to taking care of your eyes.”
Dr. Johnson offers advanced testing and monitoring services that non-specialists do not necessarily have. This includes measuring and photographing degrees of vision loss and the density of the nerve fibers that are still viable in the back of the eye. Depending upon the viability of those nerves, specialists can determine how low the pressure needs to be so that a glaucoma patient does not lose any more vision.
“You have to make sure the pressure is low enough for that particular set of nerves,” Dr. Johnson educates. “We do this to establish a baseline, so I don’t just follow the patient’s intraocular pressure. That doesn’t show us the whole picture of what’s going on.

“Continuity of Care”

Gloria’s condition has stabilized. She’ll continue on her current medications and have her eye doctor in New York monitor her glaucoma until she returns to Zephyrhills and to Dr. Johnson’s care next winter.
“I couldn’t be more enthused about Dr. Johnson and the staff at The Eye Institute of West Florida,” Gloria declares. “I found the staff there very helpful and concerned. I can’t say enough about the practice. I’m very, very glad that I found them.”

What a Pain

April 24th, 2018

Diagnosing and Treating Sciatica.

  • When you stand, does pain shoot from your lower back, down your thigh and maybe to your knee?
  • Do you have tingling, numbness, weakness or difficulty moving your leg or foot?
  • Does one side of your buttocks constantly ache?
  • Do you have hip pain?
  • Does your discomfort worsen when you bend at the waist, cough, sneeze or sit?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from sciatica.

This common condition, which often shows up in middle age, involves irritation to or inflammation of the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve starts from nerve roots in the spinal cord in the low back and extends through the buttocks to send nerve endings down the lower limb.

Sciatica – not to be confused with other back pain – is often caused by a herniated disc in the lower back pressing on or pinching the sciatic nerve. Other causes include spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal; nerve irritation from adjacent bone; tumors; infections; arthritis; injury; pregnancy; or prolonged sitting on an object such as a wallet in a back pocket.

Sometimes, no direct cause of sciatica can be found.

Doctors diagnose sciatica by conducting a physical exam and taking the patient’s symptoms and medical history into consideration. Sometimes, x-rays and other tests such as a CT scan, an MRI and an electromyogram are used as well.

Pain management specialists, chiropractors, orthopedists, rheumatologists, internists, general practitioners, physical therapists and massage therapists are among the health care professionals who evaluate and treat sciatica. It can last for days or weeks, or it can become a chronic ailment.

Traditionally, bed rest was the recommended treatment for sciatica. But how realistic is that approach? Many people, especially those who have jobs, children or other responsibilities, don’t have the luxury of lying around and doing nothing for weeks.

And there’s no guarantee that lying low will ease a bout of sciatica. One study by a research team in the Netherlands showed that patients who rested for three months showed a level of improvement equal to those who practiced “watchful waiting” during that period. The two groups also had similar rates of absenteeism from work and of surgical intervention.

Stock photo from, what can you do to ease the agony of sciatica? Don’t expect to find a lasting solution from over-the-counter pain medications, heating pads, cold packs or dietary supplements. They either don’t help or provide only temporary relief.

Chiropractic adjustments performed over multiple sessions can be effective. TENS units, which send stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands, are sometimes useful, too.

Physical therapy, as well as low back conditioning and stretching exercises, are other options, as are muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, prescription medications, acupuncture and activity restrictions. For those whose sciatica results from nerve compression at the lower spine, surgery sometimes is required.

Once patients recover from sciatica, they need to use common sense and a healthy lifestyle to prevent it from coming back. That means exercising regularly, maintaining proper posture and bending at the knees while lifting heavy objects.

Early Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

March 1st, 2018

Getting regular wellness checkups at the doctor is like doing preventive maintenance on your car. If you wait until you know something’s wrong, fixing it becomes much more complicated.Early Cancer Diagnosis Can Save Lives

Let’s say you never change your oil regularly as recommended. You’re subjecting your engine to more wear and tear than necessary and taking the risk of a catastrophic failure.

Our bodies react much the same way if we don’t give them proper care. Someone who is having symptoms but won’t go to the doctor for fear of getting bad news is a lot like the motorist who ignores the check engine light. The solution could be as simple as tightening your car’s gas cap or as costly as replacing the catalytic converter. But you won’t know until you check it out.

Women are used to having annual gynecology exams and mammograms, which can help alert their doctor to the presence of various cancers and other health issues. But how many men get a regular physical and prostate screening?

Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable malignancies if caught early. The cancer begins in tissues of the prostate gland, which produces semen and is located just below the bladder.

By age 50, about half of all men experience small changes in the size and shape of the cells in the prostate. It’s a normal part of the aging process. But sometimes those changes are a sign of prostate cancer. A doctor’s exam and diagnostic tests can help distinguish the difference.

Because the prostate gland is so close to the bladder and the urethra, the tube through which men release urine from their body, prostate cancer may be accompanied by various urinary symptoms. For example, a tumor may press on and narrow the urethra, making it difficult to urinate or hindering the ability to start and stop the flow.

Here are other urinary symptoms of prostate cancer:

  • Burning or pain during urination;
  • More frequent urge to urinate at night;
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Blood in the urine.

Additional symptoms of prostate cancer are: blood in the semen; erectile dysfunction; swelling in the legs or pelvic area; and numbness or pain in the hips, legs or feet.

If left unchecked, prostate cancer may spread, or metastasize, to nearby bones or tissues. One sign that this has happened may be bone pain that won’t go away or that leads to fractures.

Prostate cancer can often be detected in its early stages by testing the amount of prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, in a man’s blood. Or a doctor may perform a digital rectal exam by inserting a gloved and lubricated finger into the rectum to feel the prostate gland for any hard or lumpy areas.

Unfortunately, neither of those initial tests for prostate cancer is perfect. A man with a mildly elevated PSA may not have prostate cancer, while a patient with prostate cancer may have a normal PSA reading. The digital exam isn’t foolproof, either, because it only assesses the back part of the prostate gland. A biopsy of tissue from the prostate may be needed to confirm, or deny, a preliminary diagnosis.

Thus, there’s still a debate over the value of regular prostate cancer screenings because of the risk of overtreating malignancies that may not be fatal. However, researchers have concluded that preventive screening can reduce a man’s risk of dying from the disease.

And there’s no disputing that catching any cancer in its early stages is the best medicine.

“Silent thief” Steals Sight From Millions

February 6th, 2018

Millions of Americans are being robbed of their vision, and many of them don’t even know it.

They have glaucoma, often called “the silent thief of sight” because it can cause irreparable harm before the patient notices any vision loss, which can’t be reversed. The disease is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and can occur at any age, although it’s more common among older adults.

January was National Glaucoma Awareness Month, so now is a great time to become familiar with the condition, what causes it and what can be done to treat it.

Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers carrying information from the retina to the brain. The retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of each eye, is vital to good vision.

The two main types of glaucoma are open-angle and angle-closure, which refers to the drainage angle where the iris (the colored part of the eye) meets the cornea (the outer covering). Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma, accounting for at least 90 percent of the cases.

Both forms of the disease are caused by increased pressure inside the eye resulting from impaired drainage of the clear fluid flowing in and out of the eye to nourish nearby tissues. The fluid can build up when the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time (open-angle glaucoma) or are blocked completely (angle-closure).

Open-angle glaucoma is a slow-developing, lifelong condition, and symptoms and damage aren’t noticed in its early stages. As the disease progresses, patients may develop patchy blind spots or tunnel vision.

Angle-closure glaucoma can cause eye pressure to increase within hours, demands immediate medical attention and can result from other conditions, such as cataracts or tumors. Symptoms may include severe headache, eye pain, redness, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision and halos appearing around lights.

Not everyone whose eye pressure increases will develop glaucoma because some people can tolerate higher levels than others. A comprehensive exam can determine what level of eye pressure is normal for each patient.

Also, there’s a form of glaucoma called low-tension or normal-tension that can develop without increased eye pressure.

Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay the disease from worsening, which is why early diagnosis is so important. Drops or pills can help lower eye pressure, either by causing the eye to produce less fluid or by helping it drain.

An outpatient laser procedure can open the drainage holes in the eye, allowing the fluid to drain better. Another option is conventional surgery that involves making an incision into the eye’s drainage system to create new channels for a more normal flow of fluid. Shunts or stents also can be implanted in the eye to increase the flow.

Consult an eye care professional for more information on diagnosing and treating glaucoma.

Wear Red on Feb. 2 to Support Women’s Heart Health

February 1st, 2018

Supporters of the Go Red for Women movement hope to see a sea of scarlet on Feb. 2 as part of the American Heart Association‘s national effort to end heart disease and stroke in women.

The annual observance was created in 2004 and adopted the red dress as its symbol. The campaign advocates for more research and awareness of the often-overlooked fact that heart disease isn’t just a health hazard for older men. It’s the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

While chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats are obvious symptoms, a heart attack can happen without the person even knowing it. Those suffering a so-called “silent” heart attack sometimes pass off their symptoms as indigestion, the flu, asthma, anxiety, a strained muscle or some other condition.

What’s more, they may feel discomfort in their jaw, upper back or arms instead of their chest. Fatigue that’s prolonged, excessive and can’t be explained also may be a symptom of a silent heart attack.

Scarring and damage to the heart from such an attack can put the patient at greater risk of other heart issues.

A silent heart attack happens when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and blocks the flow of blood. Risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and age.

Everyone knows what feels normal for them, so people should listen to their bodies and consult a doctor if something isn’t right. Those who suspect they’re having a heart attack should stay calm, call 911 immediately and be vocal when they get to the hospital about what’s going on. If they can’t speak up for themselves, they should bring along someone who will do it for them.

Another health challenge for both women and men is atherosclerosis, often called hardening of the arteries. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque – cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and fatty substances – in the inner lining of an artery. Atherosclerosis typically starts in childhood and often progresses as people age.

Family history, high cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle and diabetes can increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis.

Plaque is especially dangerous when it becomes fragile and ruptures, causing blood clots to form. Those can break off and travel elsewhere in the body. Clots can cause a heart attack or a stroke if they block blood vessels to the heart or brain.

Knowledge is power, and 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes, the heart association says.

On Feb. 2, and throughout the year, women are encouraged to “go red” by following an exercise routine, eating more healthful foods, visiting a doctor for a regular checkup or tests when necessary and educating others about heart health.

For more information, go online to

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