Author Archive

Sight Savers

Injections preserve vision threatened by age-related macular degeneration.

Thomas Lee reading a book

Thomas reports the vision in his left eye is “90 percent” clear after one injection

As a high schooler in the Bronx, New York, Thomas Lee was moved by the quality of his teachers, the companionship of his classmates and the social engagement afforded by the clubs he joined. Those dynamics inspired him to choose a career in high school education.

Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. After graduation, he taught social studies in Trumbull County, Connecticut, eventually becoming department chair. Thomas moved on to several other teaching assignments before electing to further his training.

“I attended Fordham University in the Bronx and got a master’s degree in education with a sub-degree in reading,” Thomas elaborates. “At that time, I was teaching mostly high school freshmen. I realized many of them were deficient in reading skills and didn’t read much, other than their textbooks.

“With my sub-degree, I became a certified reading teacher and was able to introduce new courses. As part of one course called Language Arts, I gave my students materials such as adventure novels and mystery novels, books they would like and enjoy reading to help them develop a love for reading and improve their reading skills.”

Once Thomas completed his master’s degree, he opted to continue his education and earned an advanced degree in educational administration from Hofstra University on Long Island. Thomas then worked his way up in high school administration, becoming an assistant principal and finally a principal.

“I retired about 13 years ago and moved to Pinellas Park, near Tampa,” he recounts. “Three years ago, I relocated to The Villages®.”

Thomas is conscientious about his health, particularly eye health. He visits an eye doctor regularly for checkups. An exam 10 years ago revealed high pressure in his eyes. The optometrist who discovered the problem referred him to an ophthalmologist for treatment.

“The doctor used a laser to put little holes in the white area of each eye,” Thomas describes. “The holes stay open to relieve the eye pressure. I had to go back to the doctor every six months so he could test the pressure. Over the years, it stayed low.

“When I moved to The Villages, I found an eye doctor to continue the testing and also check my eyes for prescription changes. I visited the doctor about a month and a half ago and everything looked good – until he took photos of my eyes. On one photo, he noticed an area in my left eye had fluid in it.”

Thomas’ eye doctor was concerned and referred him to Florida Retina Institute for a diagnosis and treatment, if necessary. But before Thomas could make an appointment, he began to experience a disconcerting symptom.

“I started seeing distortion in the vision out of my left eye. At first, I thought my glasses were dirty, so I kept cleaning them, but that didn’t help. The distortion remained,” Thomas details. “I like to read but couldn’t at that time due to my distorted vision. That’s never happened before.”

Thomas Lee sitting outsode on a deck with his two dogs.

Thomas Lee

Ultimately, Thomas made his appointment with Florida Retina Institute. There he met with Alexander C. Barnes, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained retina specialist.

“When Mr. Lee came to us, he was experiencing a decrease in the central vision in his left eye,” Dr. Barnes recalls. “We saw evidence on our examination and testing of wet age-related macular degeneration and recommended intravitreal injections into that eye.”

AMD Varieties

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, affects the center portion of the retina, called the macula. As its name suggests, the risk of developing the disease increases over time.

“Most people don’t become affected by AMD until later in life,” Dr. Barnes educates. “Other factors, such as smoking, obesity and having a genetic predisposition, can also increase risk, but age is the primary driver.”

AMD comes in two varieties: dry and wet. About 90 percent of people with AMD have the dry form, which involves the thinning and wasting away of macular tissue.

“My vision isn’t 100 percent clear yet; it’s maybe 90 percent, so the treatment is working.” – Thomas

“With wet AMD, a network of abnormal blood vessels grows in or underneath the macula,” Dr. Barnes adds. “Those vessels can leak or even bleed, and when that happens, it can lead to a loss of central vision, which we use for reading and recognizing faces. They’re essential to quality of life.”

For years, treatments for wet AMD were extremely limited. As a result, many people with the disease experienced poor visual outcomes. As Dr. Barnes explains, that has changed with the development of intravitreal injections.

“With intravitreal injections we are able to preserve central vision in many patients who may have suffered severe vision loss in previous decades,” Dr. Barnes assures. “The goal of treatment is to stabilize the abnormal blood vessels and prevent them from leaking and bleeding and causing vision loss.”

There are three main medications that are used in these treatments in the US: bevacizumab, aflibercept and ranibizumab, the doctor explains. They work against a molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, which promotes the growth of new blood vessels. These anti-VEGF medications help stop the formation of the abnormal vessels found in wet AMD.

Thomas found his initial anti-VEGF injection to be very tolerable.

“My eyes are very sensitive, so I thought the injection would hurt,” Thomas recalls. “But Dr. Barnes said it would be very quick, and it was over in a second or two. I didn’t even know he put the needle in my eye. It didn’t hurt at all. I literally did not feel a thing. I was very happy about that.”

Right on Time

Jim Majchrzak joined the Marine Corps immediately after graduation from the University of Maryland in College Park. He enjoyed being a Marine and stayed in the Corps for 28 years. During his military career, Jim lived and worked in many locales, some exotic and some not so exotic.

“I’ve been all over the Far East and lived in Korea and Vietnam,” Jim chronicles. “I worked in Hawaii for a few years and in California for a few years. I also worked in North Carolina, Virginia and other places. I moved to Florida early in 2021.”

Jim is nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. He’s worn prescription glasses to correct the refractive errors for more than 25 years. Like Thomas, Jim visits an eye doctor routinely for exams and prescription updates. During a visit eight years ago, his eye doctor became alarmed when he detected a new problem.

“I was getting my glasses checked and my optometrist says, You need to have someone take a look at your eyes. I think you have another issue on top of needing glasses, ” Jim remembers. “I wasn’t having any vision problems at the time, but he sent me to a retina specialist. That’s when I started getting shots into both eyes for my retina health.

“I was living in California when I began treatment, so when I moved to Florida, I had to find somebody here to continue my retina care.”

Jim researched retina specialists near his home in The Villages. He discovered Florida Retina Institute, where he met with Dr. Barnes.

“Mr. Majchrzak had been seeing another provider for the management of his wet AMD,” Dr. Barnes reports. “His left eye was affected many years ago, and more recently, his right eye. We’re essentially at the beginning of his injection treatment on that eye.”

Hopeful Expectations

Thomas, who no longer needs treatment on his left eye, has received two anti-VEGF injections in his right eye, so far. He’s already seeing significant improvement to the vision in that eye.

“My vision isn’t 100 percent clear yet; it’s maybe 90 percent, so the treatment is working. And that’s very good news,” Thomas enthuses. “I can read now but not for as long as before.

“I’m hopeful that when I go back to Florida Retina Institute and get more injections, I’ll get rid of all that distortion. Hopefully, the shots are taking care of the AMD or at least slowing it down.”

Thomas and Jim are impressed with Dr. Barnes and have nothing but good things to say about the retina specialist.

“Dr. Barnes is a very good doctor,” Thomas raves. “He’s very talented and friendly, very knowledgeable and competent. He explains everything and asks if I have any questions. And he takes the time to answer the questions I have.”

Jim agrees: “Dr. Barnes is a nice gentleman and very knowledgeable. He really didn’t need to explain anything to me. I already knew what he was going to do because I’ve been getting shots for AMD for eight years. I’m getting the proper treatment at Florida Retina Institute, and I’m happy with the care I’m receiving.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb


Minding Mental Health

May 3rd, 2021

May is a great month! Spring is in full bloom (which isn’t entirely GOOD news for those of us with allergies), and it’s a time to celebrate our very special Moms. There’s another tradition we observe in May. It’s the time we become more aware of mental health and mental illness. Mental illness is a huge issue, and there’s still a lot of misinformation about it in our popular culture.

The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as “any health condition involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illness is associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” Still, the majority of people with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives despite their illness.

Almost everyone is touched in some way by mental illness. It affects one in five adults, nearly 47 million Americans. And of those, 11 million are living with serious mental illness, one that limits major life activities. Serious mental illnesses include disorders such as major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

In addition, 14.8 million people in the US have an alcohol use disorder and 8.1 million have an illegal drug disorder. Further, 2 million Americans have an opioid disorder, which includes prescription pain reliever and/or heroin abuse.

Why are so many people affected by mental illness? The exact cause of mental illness is unknown, but researchers have uncovered a few factors that may contribute to its development. One is genetics. Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting people inherit at least a susceptibility to developing a particular illness.

An imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters has been linked to some types of mental illness as well. These chemicals help your brain cells communicate with each other. If they can’t communicate properly because the chemicals are out of whack, clear messages can’t get through the brain.

Another contributing factor is psychological trauma such as severe physical, emotional or sexual abuse endured as a child, witnessing a traumatic event or experiencing significant loss. Environmental factors can also contribute. These include the death of someone close to you, a divorce or a big change in your life, such as a new job. These factors often foster substance abuse.

Whatever the cause, mental illness is just that, an ILLNESS, not a weakness in your character.

Mental illness runs the gamut, from mild depression to psychotic schizophrenia. Each illness has its own set of symptoms, but I’m giving you a few general signs and symptoms so you know what to watch out for, in yourself and others. These are some of the common signs and symptoms of mental illness:

• Sleep or appetite changes
• Mood changes
• Withdrawal and loss of interest in activities
• Problems thinking
• Decrease in functioning
• Illogical thinking
• Nervousness
• Unusual behavior

If you notice these symptoms and are willing to get help, consult a qualified mental health professional. These providers understand mental illness and can recommend the best course of treatment for you. If you ever feel like hurting yourself or others, call your local crisis hotline or 911.

There is no medical test for diagnosing mental illness, but your doctor may use tests to rule out a medical reason for your symptoms. To make a diagnosis, your mental health professional will follow the guidelines outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

The DSM-5 lists criteria including feelings, symptoms and behaviors over a period of time that you must meet in order to be officially diagnosed with a mental illness. The mental health professional gleans this information through interviews with you about your symptom history.

Many people with mental illness achieve strength and recovery through participating in individual or group treatment. The specific treatment chosen for you is based on the type of mental illness you have and the severity of your symptoms.

The most common methods of treatment are medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of both. Other options that may be considered including hospitalization, day treatment, group therapy and specific therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

Medications don’t cure mental illness but they can control symptoms, and your doctor may use one or more types of medication to treat you. Common psychiatric medications for treating mental illness include antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, mood-stabilizing medications and anti-psychotic medications.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, aims to help you identify and change troubling emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly about your feelings, as well as your experiences and relationships, which may be contributing factors to your condition.

In most cases, treatment is effective, but you’ve got to be compliant. If you’re prescribed medication, take it. If it causes intolerable side effects, tell your doctor. Maybe you can try another drug. Psychotherapy helps more than you might think, but you’ve got to participate. Treatment may take time to work, but if you comply, you’ll likely feel better and function fully.

Soothing An Irritable Bowel

April 26th, 2021

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a syndrome, a set of symptoms that occur together and are associated with a particular abnormality or condition. The most common symptoms of IBS, which affects your large intestine, or colon, include abdominal pain, cramping, bloating and gas, and a change in bowel habits.

There are three types of IBS. One is IBS with constipation (IBS-C). With IBS-C, it may be difficult to move your bowels. You may not move your bowels often, and you may feel an urge to move your bowels but can’t. With IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D), another type, you may frequently have loose stools, feel an urgent need to move your bowels and have cramps or belly pain.

A third type is IBS with mixed bowel habits (IBS-M), which is characterized by symptoms of both IBS-C and IBS-D. With IBS-M, you may have both hard and lumpy bowel movements and loose and watery ones on the same day.

It’s important for your health care provider to determine which type you have because certain medicines work well on one type but can make the symptoms of another type worse. Your provider may diagnose IBS even if you don’t fit neatly into one of these types. Many people have normal bowel movements on some days and abnormal bowel movements on other days.

The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but researchers believe that a combination of factors may lead to its development. Different factors may lead to IBS in different people.

We do know that IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder, which leads to problems with how your brain and GI system work together. These problems cause your digestive tract to be very sensitive and change how your bowel muscles contract. Symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation occur as a result.

In addition, several risk factors for IBS have been identified. You may be at a higher risk if you have a family history of IBS; suffer with emotional stress, depression, or anxiety; have food intolerances; experienced difficult early life events, such as physical or sexual abuse; have a severe infection in your digestive system; or have an overgrowth or change in the bacteria in your small intestine.

Further, research suggests that genes may make some people more likely to develop IBS.

IBS doesn’t lead to other GI conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease or cancer, but its symptoms can be uncomfortable enough to interrupt your daily life. If you suffer with the symptoms of IBS, don’t wait to see your health care provider.

To diagnose IBS, your provider will review your symptoms, looking for a pattern that suggests IBS. The provider will also review your personal and family history, and perform a thorough physical exam. During the exam, your provider usually checks for abdominal bloating, listens to sounds within your belly and taps on your abdomen to check for tenderness and pain.

Your provider may use blood tests, stool samples, and x-rays to help rule out other diseases that have symptoms similar to those of IBS. Depending on your symptoms, medical history, and other factors, your provider may recommend a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy to get a detailed look at your colon. These tests are typically done to rule out more serious diseases of the colon.

There is no cure for IBS. Treatment is directed at relieving symptoms. For many people with IBS, the key to managing symptoms is to avoid those things that trigger them. Triggers may be certain foods or even stress and anxiety. It may help to keep a “food diary” for a while to learn which foods trigger symptom flare-ups for you.

Your provider will design a treatment plan that suits your specific needs, but typical treatment options include dietary and lifestyle changes. Dietary changes may include: avoiding caffeine (it stimulates the intestines), increasing fiber in your diet, limiting cheese and milk (be sure to get calcium from other sources), avoiding deep-fried and spicy foods, and drinking plenty of water. A nutritionist can help you plan a healthy diet that meets your needs.

Lifestyle changes include: exercising regularly, quitting smoking, using relaxation techniques to de-stress, and eating smaller meals more often. If your symptoms don’t improve with these dietary and lifestyle changes, your provider may recommend medication.

Specific medications are used to treat the constipation of IBS-C and the diarrhea of IBS-D. Your provider may prescribe antidepressant medications if you have depression and anxiety along with intense abdominal pain. Probiotics, which are “good bacteria,” may be used to help improve your IBS symptoms.

Because we don’t know what causes IBS, you can’t do anything to prevent it. But if you have IBS, you can prevent symptom flare-ups by learning your triggers it and avoiding them. Living with IBS can be challenging, but if you follow your provider’s treatment plan, you can manage it and live a healthy life.

A Game Changer

Hyperbaric oxygen’s many uses include mobilizing stem cells in MS patients.

Joni Zwick was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years. When her youngest entered kindergarten, she decided to reenter the workforce and contribute to her family financially. But not just any job would do.

Joni tending to her garden

Joni Zwick

“I needed a job that allowed me to be home by 1:30 on Wednesdays for early school release and by 2:30 the rest of the week so I could get my daughter off the school bus.” Joni, 59, explains. “My husband suggested real estate.”

Having moved frequently over the years to accommodate her husband’s career as an engineer, Joni reasoned that she could do the job at least as well as the real estate agents she has dealt with, so she launched her career as a Realtor in January 2004.

“Realtors are independent contractors,” Joni expounds. “During the past 16½ years, I built a book of businesses in Ponte Vedra Beach and the Jacksonville beaches. I continue to serve those clients as well as their referrals.”

It makes Joni feel good to help people achieve their real estate goals, whether they’re buying or selling. But Joni’s good feelings vanished in 2017, when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a degenerative neurological disease. Joni’s condition deteriorated rapidly as increasing nerve damage from the disease disrupted the communication between her brain and body.

“Spasticity in my legs affected my mobility, and I started to fall a lot,” Joni discloses. “Difficulty with cognitive thinking made me feel like I was in a cloud, and I couldn’t quite pull out of it. MS comes with a fatigue that’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced. It’s not like I can take a nap or get a good night’s sleep and it goes away. It doesn’t go away.”

With her life radically disrupted by her symptoms, Joni began researching potential MS treatments and came upon stem cell therapy. Stem cells are “building block” cells that morph into other cell types with specialized functions, such as nerve cells.

For stem cell therapy, stem cells taken from the patient’s adipose tissue are typically combined with platelet rich plasma (PRP) from the patient’s blood. PRP boosts stem cell growth.

Stem Cells Mobilized

While Joni was researching stem cell therapy, she discovered that hyperbaric oxygen helps the stem cells get to the areas of need in the body.

“It’s said to be the best thing you can do after stem cell therapy,” Joni relates. “All the hospitals in town have hyperbaric chambers, but they use them to treat diabetic ulcers and other wounds.”

To accommodate her needs, Joni was forced to look for a hyperbaric clinic outside the area. Ultimately, she landed at Hyperbaric Health Services in Palatka, where she met with S. Mitchell “Mitch” Hall, CHS, a certified hyperbaric specialist.

Mitch confirmed the theory that hyperbaric oxygen therapy maximizes the impact of stem cell therapy for MS.

“MS is a chronic inflammatory disease of the brain,” Mitch observes. “Lesions develop in the brain when inflamed autoimmune cells cross the blood-brain barrier and destroy the protective coating around the nerve cells. There’s no cure for MS, and it’s difficult to treat with standard medications. For that reason, many patients seek alternative treatments such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases stem cell mobilization. Research shows that after a short course of hyperbaric oxygen therapy alone, up to 8 times more of our own stem cells are mobilized compared to the number of stem cells regularly available. In addition, the therapy’s pressurized oxygen crosses the blood-brain barrier and creates new blood vessels. These blood vessels deliver extra healing oxygen to the injured areas of the brain to speed up repair of damaged tissue.

After regular exposure to hyperbaric oxygen – as few as 20 treatments – MS patients begin to feel better and typically realize improvement in mobility, gait, bladder control and pain, Mitch explains.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of 14 health conditions, including diabetic wounds and carbon monoxide poisoning. It is considered an “off-label” treatment for multiple sclerosis.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes me feel good and holds my MS symptoms at bay.” – Joni

“Off-label doesn’t mean the treat-ment doesn’t work for MS,” Mitch assures. “It simply means more evidence of its benefits is required before the FDA will endorse it as a standard treatment for MS. Keep in mind that all 14 currently FDA-approved uses for hyperbaric oxygen therapy were once considered off-label.”

Hyperbaric Health Services uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy for other off-label indications as well. One is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection contracted through the bite of an infected tick.

“People with Lyme disease regularly experience abnormal responses to toxins released by a die off of bacteria and fungus. These responses are called Herx reactions,” Mitch explains. “When patients have a Herx reaction, they feel very lethargic, have difficulty breathing and are generally unable to function in daily life. Symptoms of a Herx reaction can last for weeks.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy detoxifies the body and induces a Herx reaction. But the reaction’s symptoms resolve much quicker; patients feel better in a matter of days, not weeks. As a result, the dreaded Herx reactions have less impact on patients’ lives.”

Hyperbaric Health Services also uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy to slow the aging process. Aging has been directly correlated with biobehavior, specifically the shortening of telomeres, sections of DNA found on the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres produce proteins essential for cell function.

“Current research out of Israel shows that telomere length can be extended by up to 20 percent using hyperbaric oxygen,” Mitch reveals. “But it will likely take years before the FDA endorses the therapy for this use. For now, it remains an off-label indication.”

Out of the Fog

Joni has received two rounds of stem cell therapy since her MS diagnosis in 2017. She followed up with visits to Hyperbaric Health Services both times. On each occasion, she completed 20 treatment sessions.

“After about the fifth time in the hyperbaric chamber, I don’t hurt. I have more energy, and I can think clearly,” Joni declares. “My brain comes out of the fog into the sunlight. It feels like my whole body is healing.

“Hyperbaric oxygen therapy makes me feel good and holds my MS symptoms at bay. It gets my blood supply to every part of my body so it can heal itself. It isn’t a cure for MS, but it totally helps relieve its symptoms. It’s a game changer!”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js

Get Your Life Back

Implanted spinal cord stimulator hijacks pain signals to brain.

Gail Stavru can hardly remember when she wasn’t beset with back problems. A retired elementary school art teacher, Gail credits her involvement in a number of auto accidents as the cause of her incessant pain.

Gail Headshot

Gail Stavru

The fact that so many physicians refused to treat her only made the situation worse.

“I went to two neurosurgeons, and neither wanted to touch my back because there were so many issues,” confides the Massachusetts native. “They said if they started working on one vertebra, they’d end up having to work on the next one and then the next. They couldn’t guarantee I’d get enough relief from the surgery to make me happy.”

Gail’s pain radiated into her legs and hips, but early on, she described it mostly as an “annoyance.” Still, it was bad enough to keep her from easily performing many routine activities, including household chores. As time went on, the pain intensified and made performing even simple tasks uncomfortable.

“At first, the pain was more of an aching, and that made it difficult to do things like lift a basket of clothes off the floor,” Gail describes. “Or I could wash the kitchen floor, but then I’d have to rest or not do anything else until hours later. Eventually, the pain impaired everything I did.

“It got so bad that I couldn’t stand at the kitchen sink for more than 30 seconds before I had to sit down. It usually started as a dull ache, then ended up as an intense, sharp pain. I put up with that for about a year and a half, then I decided I had to try again to get help for it.”

Prompting her decision was an article she read in Florida Health Care News about the pain-relieving treatments offered by Kai McGreevy, MD. Gail decided to give his methods a try.

Dr. McGreevy is a board-certified neurologist and pain management specialist at McGreevy NeuroHealth in St. Augustine. He uses a variety of techniques to relieve his patients’ pain and improve their quality of life.

During his initial visit with Gail, Dr. McGreevy ordered an MRI that revealed severe disc degeneration on multiple levels. To treat the problem, the doctor ultimately settled on spinal cord stimulation, or SCS.

Pacemaker for Pain

Spinal cord stimulation was introduced about 40 years ago, and has been evolving and improving since. Today, SCS may be used for back pain, neck pain, pain down the leg or arm from nerve damage, diabetic neuropathy, crush injuries, even angina.

“Spinal cord stimulation is one of the only interventional pain therapies available to provide 24/7 treatment of chronic pain,” asserts Dr. McGreevy. “It’s been shown to be effective for the majority of patients, including those who have already undergone spine surgery. It can also reduce a patient’s need for long-term narcotic medication.”

With SCS, a small device that applies electrical impulses to the pain source is implanted in the epidural space around the spinal cord. SCS can reduce the feeling of pain and replace it with a more comfortable tingling sensation. The device can also be programmed to have no replacement sensation at all.

“It’s like that back and hip pain took years off my life. But the spinal cord stimulator gave them back to me. I’m so happy.” – Gail

In treating Gail, Dr. McGreevy began the therapy by first recommending a trial to predict the success of the SCS in providing meaningful pain relief and functional improvement. The three-day trial is a “test drive” before the permanent stimulator is implanted surgically.

During the trial, Dr. McGreevy uses x-ray guidance to place small electrodes into the epidural space where the pain is generated. When the system is turned on, pain signals from the problem area to the brain are hindered.

“The moment I placed the electrodes appropriately and started Gail’s trial, she had significant relief,” observes Dr. McGreevy. “It was a degree of pain relief she hadn’t experienced for many years. That relief was sustained throughout the entire trial.

“Gail was able to proceed with more activity than she had been able to do previously, and she could indulge in her daily routine with much more ease. She took less pain medication and was ultimately functioning better than she had functioned for at least 10 years.”

Based on the trial, Gail was referred to a neurosurgeon to have the permanent stimulator implanted. During that procedure, a small paddle electrode was placed along her spinal cord near the origin of pain. The lead was connected to where her stimulator’s charging unit was implanted (in her case, just underneath the skin on her right hip).

Gail compares her spinal cord stimulator to a pacemaker for the heart, the difference being that the spinal cord stimulator affects pain signals going to the brain.

“After a few weeks of healing from the surgery, I went back to Dr. McGreevy’s office,” she relates. “They programmed this little unit that looks like a cellphone. I use that unit to choose between eight programs, depending on which part of my body is causing me pain. I can also use it to make the stimulation higher or lower according to my pain level.”

Visible Improvement

Dr. McGreevy notes that Gail was an ideal candidate for SCS. She had exhausted all other conservative treatments before opting for the trial. The doctor adds that Gail was an informed participant in making the decision to proceed.

Gail standing in her garden.

SCS treatment helps Gail tap into her creative side.

“I find that, for patients, being educated through face-to-face time with the physician and having the motivation to do well are very large predictors of success,” he states.

“I take time with my patients to understand their anxieties as well as seek out ways I can help support them. This is more of the art of medicine than the science, but paying attention to the little things actually makes a big difference. I think we were able to accomplish something very special for Gail.”

Gail agrees. With her back pain greatly reduced by the spinal cord stimulator, she can complete her chores with no interruption or discomfort. She’s also capable of performing tasks she hadn’t been able to do for years due to the pain.

“I’m back to doing some gardening and all the activities I used to do,” she enthuses. “I went to a dinner engagement with some people I hadn’t seen since before I got the spinal cord stimulator. One of the women looked at me and said, Oh my, you must be feeling better. When I asked how she knew, she said, Before, the pain showed in your face.

“Other people have told me I look much better now, and I feel much better, too. I feel like I can do anything. It’s like that back and hip pain took years off my life. But the spinal cord stimulator gave them back to me. I’m so happy.”

Gail gives credit for her success with SCS to Dr. McGreevy. She’s grateful he was so dedicated to relieving her pain and returning her to an active lifestyle.

“I think Dr. McGreevy is wonderful,” she muses. “Some doctors have an attitude of suck it up when it comes to pain, but not Dr. McGreevy. He always checks with me to see if I’m comfortable. If I’m in pain, he adjusts the settings on my stimulator unit.

“I tell everybody I know who has a back problem about McGreevy NeuroHealth and spinal cord stimulation. Thanks to Dr. McGreevy and his treatment, I feel like a normal person again.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. FHCN file photos. mkb

Animal Magnetism

From four teeth to beautiful smile through Dentures in a Day.

Lela Seiders has a way with animals. Even as a child, she found it easier to communicate with horses and dogs than with humans. Lela cultivated her affinity for animals into a career as a racehorse trainer and animal behaviorist that spanned nearly 50 years.

“I was born in the Chinese Year of the Horse, and I started training horses when I was 9 years old,” Lela details. “I specialized in horses that were abused by other trainers. I rehabbed them into productive racehorses. There are no classes you can take to learn to train horses. Either you can do it or you can’t.

“My other specialty was dogs with behavioral problems. I received great satisfaction in letting them be their authentic selves instead of the negative animals somebody else turned them into. But I didn’t actually train the dogs. I trained people to train their dogs.”

Before Lela retired, she spent 10 years in corporate America as a sales and marketing consultant to large pharmaceutical companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Abbott. Her work with animals gave her a leg up in that role.

“It was an easy transition for me into the pharmaceutical industry because new drugs are used in the animal industry first,” Lela expounds. “I actually knew more than the pharmaceutical companies about how the drugs worked.”

Lela took many nasty spills during her time as a horse trainer. She suffered multiple concussions and 20 broken bones. Those injuries eventually healed, but one mishap resulted in a dental issue that plagued her for most of her adult life.

“A horse accidentally went over the top of me and crushed me against the asphalt,” Lela remembers. “My jaw was broken in half and had to be wired shut. The pressure crushed my teeth, and they just crumbled and fell out over the years.

“I couldn’t eat apples or anything else that required a lot of chewing due to constant infections in my teeth and exposed nerves. And I always covered my mouth when I smiled because my teeth looked so bad.”

When Lela’s dental situation deteriorated to a point where she had to take action, she turned to Alexander Gaukhman, DMD, a skilled general, cosmetic and emergency dentist at Siesta Dental, which operates offices in Sarasota, Venice and Osprey.“When Lela came to us in 2017, she had only four teeth remaining, which were supporting partial dentures,”

Dr. Gaukhman reports. “But those four teeth were failing, so I recommended extracting the teeth and fitting her with a traditional full upper denture and a lower denture secured by dental implants.”

Snap-On Teeth

Lela's Headshot

Lela is thrilled with the results of her Dentures in a Day procedure.

Generally, upper dentures fit securely in the mouth without dental implants because the palate creates sufficient suction to hold the appliances in place. Lower dentures are a different story.

“Lower dentures are often difficult to stabilize because the lower jaw is not designed for dentures,” Dr. Gaukhman maintains. “There’s no palate in the lower jaw due to the location of the tongue, and because of that less suction is produced. As a result, lower dentures tend to slip and slide.

“It’s rare when people can wear lower dentures that don’t bother them or stay tight without help. Securing a lower denture with dental implants is the most effective way to stabilize it. That’s the reason I recommended placing two implants to secure Lela’s lower denture.”

Dental implants are screw-like posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone to serve as the foundation for replacement teeth, such as crowns and dentures. When dentures are secured by implants, they don’t slip or move; they stay in place when patients speak and eat.

“Implant dentures provide added strength for biting and chewing,” Dr. Gaukhman confirms. “And because the dentures are stable, the patient experiences better speech, better aesthetics and greater self-confidence. They don’t have to worry about the denture coming out during dinner, conversation or activity. And while teeth decay, dental implants never decay.”

In treating Lela, Dr. Gaukhman used Dentures in a Day, a single-visit smile restoration technique, to give her a new smile. As part of the process, Dr. Gaukhman places the implants on the same day he extracts the teeth. In most cases, temporary dentures are also created that day in Siesta Dental’s on-site laboratory.

“We begin Dentures in a Day by taking impressions of the patient’s teeth,” Dr. Gaukhman explains. “It takes a few hours for the lab to fabricate the dentures, but once they’re ready, we extract the teeth, put in the implants and place the dentures right away. This way, patients do not have to walk around without teeth. And by placing the dentures immediately after tooth extraction, they act as a bandage
to minimize swelling and bleeding.

“The patient wears the temporary denture for three to six months following the implant procedure. The time allows for the implants to integrate with the jawbone and for the tissues to heal. At that point, the temporary denture is replaced with a permanent appliance that attaches to the implants. Once the permanent dentures are placed, we make any necessary adjustments to ensure a perfect fit.”

“Huge Confidence Booster”

Lela, whose lower denture is secured by two dental implants, says she’s absolutely thrilled with the results of her Dentures in a Day procedure.

“My denture snaps onto the two implants, and it stays put,” Lela confirms. “It doesn’t move at all when I talk or eat. Now I can eat foods that I couldn’t before, and there’s no speech impediment from it either. “It looks great, too. Very natural. I used to put my hand in front of my mouth when I smiled, but now I just smile. That’s a huge confidence-booster.”

I used to put my hand in front of my mouth when I smiled, but now I just smile. That’s a huge confidence-booster.”  – Lela

She lauds Dr. Gaukhman for his compassion, skill, professionalism and perfectionism.

“There’ve been times that I’ve called Siesta Dental and Dr. Gaukhman answers the phone himself. How many doctors’ offices do you call and the doctor answers the phone?”

Lela says. “That really impressed me about Dr. Gaukhman.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Patient photo by Jordan Pysz. js

Shots Save Her Sight

Eye injections halt vision loss from macular degeneration.

Judy Berling is passionate about art. She began her college career at the University of Maryland as an art major. But struggles with one required course in the curriculum derailed her plan to graduate with an art degree.

Judy Berling is receiving treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) from Dr. Jonathan Staman at Florida Retina Institute, which has offices in St. Augustine, Palm Coast and Jacksonville.

Judy’s improved vision allows her to paint intricate
designs on small rocks and canvases.

“To earn an art degree from the University of Maryland, you had to learn a language,” details Judy, 74. “I couldn’t hear the language well enough to learn it, come hell or high water. My counselor wasn’t too great, and they switched my major to education, though not art education. I graduated with a degree in elementary education.”

Judy began her teaching career in Maryland. When her family relocated to Florida a few years later, she opted to stay at home with her children. After a while, Judy felt the itch to return to work and secured a job teaching fifth-graders in Collier County.

“I loved teaching and loved the kids,” Judy admits. “Fifth grade is the perfect grade. The kids are old enough to be independent but still young enough to be sweet. I taught for 20 years before retiring.”

Judy never lost her zeal for art. Over the years, she dabbled in oils, watercolors and even ceramics. After that, she took up Mandala painting. Mandala is an art form based on intricate geometric designs, which Judy paints on rocks and small canvasses.

However, in 2013, seeing to paint became nearly impossible.

“Something was blocking the vision in my right eye,” Judy recounts. “It looked like a mud spot on a windshield. I couldn’t see through it. I couldn’t even see the wall the eye chart was on. I could see nothing out of my right eye.”

Judy could still see through her left eye, and what she saw were straight lines that appeared wavy. By this time, Judy was residing in St. Augustine, so her eye doctor referred her to the local office of Florida Retina Institute.

“It was there that Judy met with Jonathan A. Staman, MD, a board-certified, fellowship-trained retina specialist. During a thorough examination, Dr. Staman diagnosed Judy’s problem as macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration affects the macula, a small area at the center of the retina responsible for a person’s central, most detailed vision. The macula is what we use to read and identify facial features.

“Macular degeneration is the most common condition causing irreversible central vision loss in Americans over the age of 50,” Dr. Staman states. “Fortunately, if it is caught early, we are often able to treat the condition and prevent severe vision loss.”

Macular degeneration most often occurs with age, as the macula naturally deteriorates and tissue breaks down. That’s why it’s often referred to as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD.

“There are two main forms of AMD, the dry form and the wet form,” Dr. Staman educates.

Dry AMD, which involves the breakdown and wasting away of macular tissue, is the more common, occurring in 80 to 90 percent of AMD cases, he states. The wet form occurs when abnormal blood vessels develop and leak fluid and blood into the macula.

Wet AMD is a progressive disease that can cause severe, irreversible vision loss. However, severe vision loss from wet AMD is not inevitable, Dr. Staman asserts.

“Not all that long ago, patients with aggressive AMD would likely progress to blindness,” Dr. Staman says. “Thank goodness, we now have treatments that can prevent that outcome. While these treatments are not a cure, they can stabilize the macular blood vessels enough to keep the most dangerous complications of wet AMD from occurring.”

Stop the Leakage

Dr. Staman diagnosed Judy with wet AMD. To treat the condition, he prescribed injections of an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor, or anti-VEGF. Anti-VEGF medications work to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels developing underneath the retina. They also help to make the blood vessels less permeable to stop the leaking and bleeding that lead to vision loss.

“Anti-VEGF treatment is highly effective in stopping the blood vessel leakage and stabilizing the disease process,” Dr. Staman maintains. “But if a patient has progressive macular degeneration in one eye, it is not uncommon for the second eye to eventually become affected. Ms. Berling knew to monitor herself daily for any changes to the vision in her second eye.

“One day, she noted that her left eye had developed blurry central vision. Sure enough, macular degeneration was beginning to affect that eye. Fortunately, we were able to catch and treat it early and prevent any severe vision loss. Ms. Berling has had wet AMD for many years now, yet with anti-VEGF treatment, she continues to maintain very good vision.”

Painless Injections

To treat her wet AMD, Judy receives anti-VEGF injections into both eyes every four weeks. She says the results are miraculous.

“At first, I was nervous about getting an injection into my eye,” Judy discloses. “But it didn’t hurt at all. The way they do the injections at Florida Retina Institute, you don’t see the needle. I would say the treatment is no big deal except that it’s such a blessing.

“I am absolutely thrilled with my treatment. It doesn’t hurt, and I can see. What more could I want? The mud spot in my vision is gone. And the wavy lines are pretty much gone as well, which is a blessing.”

“I’m overjoyed with how well I see now.” – Judy

Judy sees so well now that she is using a painting technique in her art called pointillism, where images are created using small dots of color. She’s delighted with that and with Dr. Staman and the staff at Florida Retina Institute.

“I’m overjoyed with how well I see now,” Judy enthuses. “And I couldn’t be happier with Dr. Staman. I have loved him from the beginning. He’s just the nicest, most caring and wonderful man. I appreciate that he doesn’t overload his schedule so I don’t have to wait forever when I have an appointment. He always takes his time with me and doesn’t rush me through, and he explains everything I need to know.”

She gives similar passing grades to everybody at Florida Retina Institute.

“They are fantastic,” Judy praises. “I could not ask for a more welcoming, professional atmosphere in an office.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. mkb

You Can Defeat Diabetes

April 19th, 2021

The cells in your body need a steady source of energy to function. They get it from a simple sugar called glucose that is released when the food you eat is broken down. But glucose can’t get into your cells on its own. It needs the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells of your pancreas.

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that develops when your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin or your body can’t use insulin efficiently, a condition called insulin resistance. Without insulin, glucose builds up in your bloodstream and your cells are starved of the energy they need to survive. This can lead to complications with your eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves. In severe cases, it can lead to coma and death.

The National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020, released by the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation, revealed that 34.2 million Americans – just over 1 in 10 – have diabetes. Another 88 million – approximately 1 in 3 American adults – have prediabetes, a condition in which your blood glucose level is high but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. More than 84 percent of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational.

With type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin because your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys its beta cells. People with this type must take supplemental insulin every day. Type 1 is typically diagnosed in children, adolescents and young adults, but can occur at any age. About 5 to 10 percent of people with diabetes have type 1.

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. It affects up to 10 percent of pregnant women in the US each year. With gestational diabetes, the placenta — which provides oxygen and nutrients for the growing baby – produces hormones that block the action of the mother’s insulin. It can lead to complications for the mother and baby.

In many cases, gestational diabetes can be treated effectively with diet and exercise alone. But in other cases, the mother must take oral diabetes medications or insulin injections to stabilize her blood glucose levels. Gestational diabetes typically resolves after the mother gives birth, but she is at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, affecting 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes. It is typically diagnosed in people 45 years old and older and is characterized by insulin resistance. This type is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. You are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes if you have a family history of diabetes, are overweight or obese, are physically inactive or have prediabetes.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include: increased hunger or thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, blurry vision, extreme fatigue and sores that are slow to heal. The diagnosis is generally made using a fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, A1C test or random plasma glucose (RPG) test. These tests measure the level of glucose in your blood. A consistently high level indicates diabetes.

Treatment for type 2 diabetes begins with lifestyle changes. These include eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein such as poultry and fish. You should also avoid saturated and trans fats, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and stop smoking. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower your glucose level, you may need to take medication or insulin.

By living a healthy lifestyle – eating properly, exercising regularly, not smoking and taking your medication as needed – you can manage your blood glucose and defeat diabetes!

Cutting-Edge Solution

No knife needed to relieve back and neck pain.

Kechia Hignight loved her job as a hospital corpsman in the Navy. She remained in the service for 10 years, which included a year and a half in the Persian Gulf ministering to injured sailors. Following her military discharge, Kechia chose a slightly different career path.

Kechia sitting on a bench by the water.

Kechia Hignight

“After being separated from my children for 18 months, I wanted to be more present in their lives,” shares Kechia, 56. “When I returned from the Gulf War, I didn’t want to do hands-on patient care. I learned transcription skills while working as a legal secretary and was familiar with medical terminology. I basically fell into medical transcription.”

Kechia found her work as a medical transcriptionist interesting and educational. It also permitted her to spend quality time with her children.

“I transcribed for hospitals all over the country in every discipline,” Kechia muses. “The job let me stay in the medical field and learn about new equipment and procedures, but it also allowed me to work from home and be there when my kids needed me.”

Kechia thrived in that profession for 25 years, but was forced to retire a few years ago when pain from a back injury made it impossible to sit for long periods. Her injury occurred on a hiking trip with her parents in 2004.

“We were stepping off a large rock, and as my father reached up for my hand, I slipped,” the Illinois native recounts. “My feet fell out from under me, and I landed on my right side. I knew my back was injured the minute it happened.”

At first, the discomfort wasn’t terrible, but over time it evolved into severe nerve pain.

“On a regular basis, my pain level sat at a crippling eight,” she details. “It was so bad that I couldn’t run anymore or ride in a car for long periods because my fingers would go numb when I drove. When I sat on the couch, it felt like my legs were full of bees because of the nerve pain.

“Everybody’s head weighs approximately 10 pounds, but mine felt like it weighed 50 pounds. It caused the muscles in my neck and shoulders to be extremely tight. It felt like somebody was sitting on top of me. The pain was life-changing because it severely limited me and I had always been a very healthy and active person. It was horrible to live with.”

Seeking to ease the agony, Kechia tried pain medications as well as physical therapy, massage therapy and chiropractic treatments. Nothing helped.

Believing she faced a lifetime of pain, Kechia felt hopeless and depressed. But her fortunes changed in 2020, when her husband discovered Florida Health Care News in his doctor’s waiting room. In the publication, he saw an article about Craig S. Aderholdt, DC, of the Back Pain Institute of West Florida, and a unique spinal treatment called VAX-D® therapy.

He took the publication home to Kechia and said, You should try this. She agreed.

Dr. Aderholdt provides the most advanced treatments for patients in severe pain. VAX-D is a patented, FDA-approved medical decompression technique for alleviating pressure on the discs of the spine.

“When Kechia came to us, she was suffering with a very painful neck and back condition, with pain radiating into her arms and legs,” recalls Dr. Aderholdt, one of the few doctors in the country offering VAX-D. “Based on the physical exam findings, Kechia’s long history of symptoms and the results of her x-ray, I recommended VAX-D therapy for her.”

Better Than Traction

VAX-D, or vertebral axial decompression, is not a traction device, Dr. Aderholdt stresses. It works differently than traction and achieves significantly better results.

“Chiropractic adjustments alone can relieve the pain for many patients,” the doctor acknowledges. “But for select people with conditions such as sciatica or herniated, bulging or degenerated discs, VAX-D therapy has proven extremely successful.

VAX-D is effective at alleviating low back and neck pain, the doctor explains. It also helps with numbness, tingling and pain that radiates down the arms and legs. Kechia experienced these symptoms and was considered an excellent candidate.

“The pain relief feels like a miracle to me.” – Kechia

During VAX-D, the patient relaxes on a comfortable, computer-controlled table, secured by a pelvic belt or patented cervical collar, depending on the area to be treated. Carefully specified tension and pressure changes guide the use of VAX-D, allowing the therapist to focus decompression at the exact level of dysfunction. Most sessions last about a half-hour.

The VAX-D system is computerized, which enables the table to make subtle but targeted movements that create a powerful vacuum within the disc space. This vacuum gently draws the disc back to its proper orientation, pulling nutrient-rich spinal fluid into the disc and stimulating repair cells that effectively mend the disc.

“No other treatment can create such a powerful vacuum,” Dr. Aderholdt asserts. “There are imitators, but VAX-D’s vacuum effect is the most powerful one known. That is what makes VAX-D such a valuable tool for pain relief. Further, VAX-D doesn’t allow the muscles to contract, like other machines can. In fact, it is the only nonsurgical treatment that has been clinically proven to reduce disc pressure to negative levels.

Kechia walking on path next to a body of water

After treatment with VAX-D therapy, Kechia no longer takes medication for her back pain.

“In my opinion, VAX-D is one of the most effective nonsurgical medical treatments for low back pain, neck pain and sciatica. This innovative technology is one more tool I can offer patients as we work toward relieving pain and maintaining the health of the lumbar and cervical spine.”

Studies show VAX-D is effective in more than 88 percent of patients. Many report a significant reduction in back or neck pain after only a few treatments. Dr. Aderholdt emphasizes, however, that actual healing takes longer because bulging or herniated discs require a series of sessions to fully reposition.

“Some patients think they will get relief after a handful of sessions and they can just quit, but that’s not the case,” he maintains. “Patients must follow through with all of the required treatments to get the full benefit.”

Another advantage of Vax-D: It can eliminate the need for surgery.

“Many patients with severe back or neck pain want to avoid surgery, and that is something that VAX-D allows,” Dr. Aderholdt observes. “With surgery, there is the potential for serious complications. Because VAX-D is noninvasive, those complications are avoided.”

Kechia is well aware of all the complications that can arise from surgery. That’s why she’s grateful that VAX-D allowed her to avoid surgery.

“I used to transcribe reports of back surgeries, and the outcomes were 50/50,” she asserts. “Some people come out of surgery feeling magically better. Others go through the trauma of surgery and get no relief from their back pain. I don’t want to be in those circumstances, and thankfully, I’m not.”

Kechia received significant benefits from VAX-D therapy. She no longer needs to take opioid medication for her pain, and she considers that a huge accomplishment.

“My pain level now is maybe a three, and I can get by with ibuprofen or acetaminophen,” she beams. “There’s a considerable difference in the discomfort in my head, and the tightness in my neck and shoulders has greatly improved. The pain relief feels like a miracle to me.”

Night and Day

Marie Clift’s father was a 30-year Navy man. She grew up in the military community and learned early on that the Army and Air Force operated through the Department of Defense, which employs civilian workers. When it came time to choose a career, Marie searched the department and found a position with the Commissary and Exchange Service.

Marie squatting down with her dog

Marie Clift

“My job supported the Army and Air Force by setting up the military department stores for their BXs (base exchanges) and PXs (post exchanges),” Marie explains. “I worked for the DoD for 27 years and retired in 2011.”

After several years of retirement, Marie began looking for productive ways to fill her time. A former supervisor offered her a job setting up training classes for a marketing company, and Marie accepted.

“Being active all my life, I wanted something to do when I retired,” Marie elaborates. “My boss’s marketing company services the military, and I’m familiar with that type of work. But this time I’m on the other side of the table. Previously, I bought merchandise for the military; now I’m a vendor selling merchandise to their PXs and BXs.”

During his Navy career, Marie’s father was assigned to posts around the globe, including Morocco and Germany. Ultimately, he returned to the states and the naval base in Fort Meade, Maryland.

His final duty station before retiring was in Pensacola, which gave Marie a taste of Florida. When seeking an area to spend her golden years, she chose to return to the Sunshine State.

“When I retired, my husband was working as a consultant for Lockheed Martin in San Jose, California,” she shares. “After he was done working, we started looking for places to retire. I grew up primarily on the East Coast, so we decided to move to Bradenton. We bought our home in January 2013.”

For most of her life, Marie was an avid skier and horseback rider. Over the years, she took some nasty falls. While she never sustained a serious injury, she did develop persistent pain in her back that grew more intense with time.

“I’m blessed I never broke anything in those falls, but I certainly jolted some things, especially in my lower back,” Marie quips. “As I aged, things shifted. Most of the time, my pain rated a three or four. Until I turned the wrong way. Then my pain level soared to a 10.

“I’m an aggressive walker. I wore a back brace when I walked because any wrong move made my back shift out of alignment. When that happened, the pain would bring me to my knees. Eventually I couldn’t even make my bed or sweep the floor without my back going out.”

“I feel blessed that I found Dr. Aderholdt.” – Marie

For years, Marie visited chiropractors and was amazed at the pain relief she experienced after an adjustment. Looking to find a chiropractor in Florida, Marie searched the internet and discovered Dr. Aderholdt. She was impressed by the recognition he received for excellence in his field.

“I saw that Dr. Aderholdt won back-to-back awards, including one in 2020,” Marie discloses. “He was rated No. 1 and named the best back pain specialist in the area. That’s what drove me to the Back Pain Institute. I also like Dr. Aderholdt’s philosophy on back pain treatment. He believes surgery should be the absolute last resort.”

As with Kechia, Dr. Aderholdt recommended VAX-D for Marie.

“The VAX-D system gently pulls and separates the discs in your back that are a little compressed or are pinching a nerve,” Marie describes. “When Dr. Aderholdt put me on the machine, I couldn’t believe the difference in my pain. Since I started seeing him, the difference has been like night and day.”

Marie initially visited the Back Pain Institute in 2013. Since then, she’s returned periodically to maintain the relief she achieved through VAX-D. She also sought Dr. Aderholdt’s help for a second condition.

“I developed sciatica, which is extremely painful,” Marie reveals. “But Dr. Aderholdt relieved that as well. He advised me to avoid walking in the summer humidity because the muscles swell and can pinch the nerves. He encouraged me to walk early when it’s cool or in the evening when it’s less humid.”

“Like a Miracle”

Marie admits it took a little time before she realized relief from her pain.

Marie walking her dog

Today, Marie has no pain in her back.

“It took a couple of months,” she confirms. “Then all of a sudden, I didn’t feel the pain anymore. Today, I have no pain in my back and I don’t need surgery.”

Kechia and Marie express mutual admiration for Dr. Aderholdt.

“I love Dr. Aderholdt,” Kechia raves. “He explained the reasons for some of the symptoms I was experiencing, such as why I felt tingling in my legs, but only in my calves. He told me it’s because a disc in my lower back was compressing the nerve going down the side of my calves.

“And I never knew it at the time, but it turns out that this constant sinus pressure I had was actually because a cervical disc had slid to one side and onto the nerve that services my sinus cavity. Knowing the cause of my symptoms actually made me feel better. At least I understood why they were occurring.”

Marie echoes Kechia’s assessment of the chiropractor.

“Dr. Aderholdt is brilliant,” she exclaims. “I’ve gone to a lot of chiropractors in my life and I’ve been fortunate to find many good ones. But Dr. Aderholdt’s method is the best. Some people may not need VAX-D therapy, but I needed it and it really helped me. I feel blessed that I found Dr. Aderholdt.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Marie’s photos courtesy of Marie Clift. Kechia’s photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb


A Sneak Peek at Sarcoidosis

April 12th, 2021

What is sarcoidosis? It’s an inflammatory disease that most often affects your lungs and lymph nodes but can impact any organ in your body, including your eyes, skin and heart. Sarcoidosis is characterized by small clusters of inflamed cells, called granulomas, that form in the affected organ. Granulomas can alter the normal structure of the organ and interfere with its function.

Sarcoidosis affects between 150,000 and 200,000 people in the US and an estimated 1.2 million worldwide. Some people with sarcoidosis experience no signs and symptoms. When symptoms do appear – usually in people between the ages of 20 and 40 – they vary depending on the organ involved.

In many cases, people with sarcoidosis initially present with a classic set of signs and symptoms collectively referred to as Lofgren’s syndrome. Signs and symptoms associated with this syndrome include: fever, enlarged lymph nodes, swollen and painful joints, and a rash – typically found on the shins and ankles – that consists of raised red and tender bumps. This rash is called erythema nodosum.

Other common signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis include but are not limited to: fatigue; weight loss; irregular heartbeat; discoloration of the nose, cheeks, lips and ears; blurry vision; sensitivity to light, headaches; swollen legs; arm, leg or facial weakness; hoarse voice; enlarged liver or spleen; pain in your hands or feet; and a general feeling of ill health.

If your lungs are affected by sarcoidosis, you may experience shortness of breath, dry cough, chest pain or wheezing.

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown. Some experts believe it results from an overreaction by your immune system to a foreign substance. These substances may include infectious agents, chemicals, dust and possibly your body’s own proteins. An immune system reaction causes inflammation. With sarcoidosis, inflamed cells collect and form granulomas.

Certain factors put you at a greater risk for developing sarcoidosis. These risk factors include: age; living or working near insecticides, mold or other substances that cause inflammation; family history of sarcoidosis; race or ethnicity – the condition is more common in people of African and Scandinavian descent; and gender – women are affected more often than men.

Diagnosing sarcoidosis can be challenging because its signs and symptoms are similar to those of other diseases. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will first review your medical history and perform a thorough physical exam. Tests your doctor may use to diagnosis sarcoidosis include: chest x-ray, high resolution CT scan, pulmonary function tests, bronchoscopy with biopsy, PET scan, gallium scan, blood tests, electrocardiogram and slit lamp test to examine your eyes.

In some people, particularly those who experience mild symptoms, sarcoidosis will resolve on its own without treatment. The goal of treatment, when it’s needed, is to reduce symptoms and maintain function of the affected organ.

Treatment of sarcoidosis begins with good health practices. You are encouraged to see your doctor routinely for check-ups, eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, drink eight to 10 8-oz glasses of water daily, exercise regularly and manage your weight, get six to eight hours of sleep per night and quit smoking.

Medication treatment it typically reserved for people experiencing moderate to severe sarcoidosis symptoms. The oral corticosteroid prednisone, which reduces inflammation, is the most commonly used medication. Initially, a relatively high dose of corticosteroids is prescribed. This is followed by a slow tapering of the medication until the lowest effective dose is reached.

Unfortunately, corticosteroids, including prednisone, have side effects such as excessive weight gain, insomnia, acne and depression. Some people taking corticosteroids develop high blood pressure, cataracts, glaucoma, osteoporosis or diabetes. These medications also increase your risk for infection.

Other treatment options may be tried if you can’t take corticosteroids or find their side effects intolerable. For example, medications commonly used to treat arthritis, such as methotrexate and azathioprine, can suppress the inflammatory response of your immune system. These medications may be used in place of or together with corticosteroids. But they can be toxic to your liver, so regular blood tests to check liver function are necessary.

If the granulomas affect the function of an organ, you may develop complications, including permanent damage to your heart or lungs due to scarring of the tissue. So it’s important to visit your doctor as soon as you notice the signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis.

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