Migraine and other headache conditions are a common cause of pain. Migraine headaches are the leading cause of temporary disability in the work force. Fortunately, there are many medications that can be used to prevent and treat migraines.

The first therapeutic event which needs to happen is the correct diagnosis of migraine to be made. Patients can have multiple headache types. Headaches which are severe enough to limit activity and are associated with light and sound sensitivity with nausea and sometimes vomiting are most likely migraines. Migraines usually have a pulsating, heartbeat type pain – made worse by movement.

A common type of headache which can mimic migraine is occipital neuralgia. Occipital neuralgia starts at the base of the skull. There the occipital nerve exits the spine and runs up the back of the skull to the forehead. This nerve carries pain fibers. If it becomes irritated, due to trauma, “sleeping wrong” or just routine daily activities; occipital neuralgia headache occurs. The pain can be just as severe as a true migraine. The pain can be on one side, both sides or even isolated to the front of the head. Diagnosis of occipital neuralgia is made by gently pushing at the base of the skull, over the occipital nerve. If this reproduces the headache symptoms, the diagnosis of occipital neuralgia is made. The most effective treatment for occipital neuralgia is a simple injection in the upper neck in the region of the occipital nerve.

Botox was approved by the FDA in 2011 for treatment of intractable migraines. Botox migraine treatment is not for everyone. In order to have insurance or Medicare to pay for Botox, certain criteria must be met. These criteria include:

– 15 headache days a month
– Failed various migraine prevention medications
– AEDs
– Antidepressants
– Certain blood pressure medications
– muscle relaxants
– physical therapy
– migraines must be incapacitating causing missed work or school

All of these criteria must be met before insurance will authorize and pay for Botox therapy for migraines. Once approved, Botox for migraine is a simple, in-office procedure. For experienced migraine doctors, giving Botox for migraine takes about 20 minutes. Botox does not work immediately to relieve intractable migraines. Effects can be felt as soon as two weeks but maximum benefit is at 6 weeks after Botox treatment. Duration of pain relief can be from 6-8 weeks. With repeated Botox treatment for migraine headache, there is a cumulative benefit in many patients. The minimum time in between Botox treatments is 90 days.

For optimum migraine control, affected patients should be treated every 3-4 months. This results in the best migraine control. This in combination with oral medication migraine prevention therapy.

In conclusion, Botox is effective treatment for many headache patients with chronic, intractable migraines. Proper diagnosis and treatment must be given. For insurance to pay for Botox for migraine, specific criteria must be met. If you suffer from persistent, frequent headaches, call Sarasota Neurology today for an appointment. Start improving your quality of life today.


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Huntington’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease that is a genetic, progressive neurological disorder that slowly takes away a persons ability to walk, talk, and reason. It is characterized by the initial subtle symptoms of change in personality and motor skills ability. As the condition progresses, patients develop involuntary movements known as chorea (hence Huntington’s Chorea.)  The word chorea comes from the Greek word choreia, which means “to dance”, which describes the uncoordinated, jerky body movements associated with the condition. Other motor symptoms eventually appear and may include difficulty speaking, walking or writing.  It was reported in detail in 1872 by the American physician, George Huntington (1850-1916).

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease usually appear between the ages of  35-44 years old. Affected individuals can show a general lack of coordination and an unsteady gait.  Other symptoms include  depression, mood swings, forgetfulness, clumsiness, and involuntary twitching. As the disease progresses, concentration and short-term memory decrease and involuntary movements of the head, trunk and limbs increase. Huntington’s dementia eventually occurs. Patients will have memory loss associated with difficulty in abstract thinking, planning and avoiding inappropriate behavior.

In 1993, scientists discovered the gene that causes Huntington’s disease. HD is a genetic mutation stemming from the formation a chain of abnormal DNA sequences. There are four building blocks of DNA. Repeating DNA chains of cytosine-adenine-guanine (CAG) code for the protein glutamine, an amino acid. As a result, these long glutamine chain proteins clump together and are toxic to brain cells (neurons.) The more CAG repeat sequences there are, the more severe the symptoms of HD.  Scientists have also discovered the more severely the gene is mutated, the earlier the onset of the disease.

There is no known cure for Huntington’s disease at this time .  There are, however, treatments which can be employed to reduce the severity of some symptoms.  Tetrabenazine was developed specifically to reduce the severity of chorea in HD. Other drugs that help to reduce chorea include Haldol, Risperdal and other neuroleptic medications. Valium like drugs known as benzodiazepines may also be helpful. Rigidity can be treated with antiparkinsonian drugs, and myoclonic hyperkinesia can be treated with valproic acid. Depression is common in HD and can be managed with medications in the serotonin reuptake inhibitor family, such as Prozac or citolopram.

Huntington’s Disease profoundly affects not only the patient, but the entire family — physically, emotionally, socially and economically.  Since there is no known cure and the prognosis is poor, a plan of action should be developed jointly with a qualified neurologist who specializes in movement disorders so that the patient’s quality of life can be maintained as long as possible. Your neurologist can also help you locate and connect to some of the many support groups, organizations, and resources available to help with both the patient and the family and caregiver(s).

Innovative research is underway and aims to find better treatment options and ultimately hope and a cure for this debilitating condition.  If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from Huntington’s Chorea, contact Sarasota Neurology for an appointment.


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There are many studies that have shown excellent health benefits from taking omega 3 type fish oil. Omega 3 oils are found in fish oils, flax seed and several vegetable oils including canola, soybean and olive oils. There are different components to these oils that provide health benefits. The DHA and EPA oils in fish oil have been linked to reducing hardening of the arteries and lowering triglycerides. They also have the benefit of lowering blood pressure and heart rate to a mild degree. This all results in an overall reduction in risk for coronary artery disease, heart attack, sudden death, irregular heart beat and stroke. Fish oil can also have a blood thinning effect to reduce abnormal blood clotting, similar to that of aspirin. This latter effect is a two edge sword because too much fish oil can increase the risk for serious bleeding. Generally three grams (3000 mg) daily or less is considered safe. Daily intake of Omega 3 should come from dietary sources with no more than 2000 mg (2 grams) coming from supplements.

Omega-3 is derived from high fat containing fish such as albacore tuna, salmon, flounder, pompano, anchovies, sardines and mackerel. Fish in the equatorial regions around South America have a higher content of Omega 3 than do those caught in the more northern areas around Scandinavia and Iceland. Interestingly flax seed, flax oil and kiwi fruit contain higher amounts of Omega 3 oils than do that of fish. Flax seed can be added to cereal, baked goods or eaten alone. Fish oil capsules are available in 1000 mg and 1200 mg sizes. It is important to not confuse Omega-3 oils with Omega-6 oils. Omega-6 oils do not confer the health benefits that Omega-3 fish oils do. Omega-6 is found in high concentrations in various types of vegetable oils derived from the following: corn, safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower and walnuts. It is important to reduce the consumption of Omega-6 oils as they compete with Omega-3 oils, thereby decreasing the benefit from Omega-3 fish oils. Eating fish twice a week is the standard recommendation, in addition to taking any supplements.

There have been many studies showing the beneficial effects of Omega-3 oils. The main benefit comes from reduction of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), reduced coronary artery disease, decreased risk of heart attack and potentially fatal heart beat rhythms. Omega-3 oils have also been shown in some studies to have a brain cell protective effect in such conditions as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Fish oils can improve memory to a degree. Several studies have shown that 2000-3000 mg of Omega-3 oil intake daily, has a potent antiinflammatory action as that of high dose ibuprofen. Patients with arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from Omega-3, without the risks associated with taking
antiinflammatory drugs for extended periods (such as bleeding stomach ulcers, kidney and liver damage.) It should be noted that the fish oil capsules have a more robust effect for reducing inflammation than that of flax seed oils.

Omega-3 oils can reduce total triglyceride levels and increase “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels. These oils also have an overall beneficial effect on the blood vessels, both in increasing blood flow and improving the health and stability of the vessel walls themselves. This effect is in part responsible for the risk reduction in having a stroke or heart attack as well as patients with problematic varicose veins and leg pains due to peripheral vascular disease. A word of caution: in patients with congestive heart failure, consultation with your cardiologist is first advised. As fish oil has a blood thinning effect, you should check with your doctor if you are taking prescription blood thinners. Additional benefits from Omega-3 fish oils have been shown in improving retinal (visual) function and possibly slowing down macular degeneration. Studies in psychiatric conditions have demonstrated Omega-3 beneficial effects in reducing depression, lessening memory loss and improving memory function.


Posted in General Medicine, High Cholesterol, Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Parkinson's disease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , by

Recent studies have suggested that qualifying Parkinson patients benefit from earlier treatment with deep brain stimulation, as reported in Clinical Neurology News. The study indicates that younger Parkinson disease patients are more likely to benefit from early brain stimulator treatment. There is information that may suggest that this therapy may have a protective effect in delaying the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) was FDA approved in 2002 for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms that are best controlled include tremor and dyskinesias although brain stimulation can also help reduce freezing and off time. Younger Parkinson patients develop motor complications such as dyskinesias, off time and freezing much earlier than older patients with Parkinson’s disease. As reported by Dr. David Charles, a Vanderbilt University Medical Center Parkinson neurologist, “No therapy…has bee shown to slow the progression of Parkinson’s.” The previous thinking was to wait until a patient had severe motor complications that could not be controlled with medications prior to considering DBS therapy. The new thinking, and research, is exploring benefits of DBS in earlier stages of Parkinson’s disease. In various reported cases, patients not only benefited from better control of their Parkinson motor symptoms but also had improved quality of life. Added advantages is that Parkinson patients treated earlier with DBS used less medications over an 18 month period, as shown in one small study. There are two studies currently looking at the benefits of early DBS therapy in Parkinson patients: EARLYSTIM is a French study and a smaller study at Vanderbilt University are in progress. It should be noted that Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder. Even patients with DBS therapy do have progression of their symptoms. Memory loss can be a part of the Parkinson syndrome and is not helped by DBS therapy. DBS is not a substitute for optimal neurological and medication management of Parkinson symptoms. Dr. Kassicieh, at Sarasota Neurology, provides medical and neurological management for patients with Parkinson’s disease and brain stimulators. For more information click here.


Posted in Botox, Brain Stimulation, Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Movement Disorders, Nerve Pain, Parkinson's disease, Stroke and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , by

Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) results from injuries to the head. This can range from mild concussions (being struck on the head) to severe head injuries. Not always does the degree of head trauma correlate with the degree and symptoms of PCS. It is estimated that approximately 60-80% of patients suffering a moderate to severe concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI), will develop PCS. In milder head injuries, PCS will develop up in up to 40-50% of injured individuals. Loss of consciousness is not a requirement for development of PCS. It is not even a requirement that there be a direct head injury. Patients who have sudden jerking movements of the head, particularly in car accidents, with out direct head trauma can suffer from PCS. Risk factors for development of PCS can include lower education level, drug or alcohol abuse, prior head injuries, or preexisting depression or anxiety. The recognition and diagnosis of the symptoms of PCS are important in helping affected patients to return to normal a quickly as possible.

The symptoms of PCS may develop immediately or make take days to several weeks to become apparent. Headaches and dizziness are the most common complaints in patients with PCS. These however are not the only symptoms that can be associated with PCS. Varying degrees of memory loss, concentration difficulty, anxiety, depression, irritability, emotional and behavioral disturbances, insomnia and personality changes. The headaches can vary from mild, dull, generalized headache to severe migraine like headaches. These headaches usually occur daily and can be quite debilitating. Dizziness can be anywhere from lightheadedness to a spinning type of dizziness known as vertigo. Patient can have irritability, anxiety and depression, partly due to the head injury but also from the persistence of their symptoms. Insomnia frequently accompanies these other psychological symptoms. In more severe case, behavioral changes can occur. Patients can become impulsive and irrational in their behavior. Psychological changes are more apparent later in the course of PCS. Decreased ability to concentrate and slowness in mental function can occur, particularly in higher functioning individuals.

Treatment for PCS is primarily time. Many of the symptoms of PCS will clear within days to a few weeks. A typical time for clearing of symptoms is usually 3 months and as much as 6 months. In 10-15% of the cases it can take a year or more for improvement. The earlier the diagnosis is made, generally the better the outcome. Headaches and dizziness complaints most commonly bring the patient to a doctor’s office. Patients may have tension headaches, migraine headaches or a condition known as occipital neuralgia. The latter is an injury to the occipital nerve at the base of the skull. The most effective treatment for this condition is an occipital nerve block. Other headache conditions are treated with the usual preventative migraine medications protocols. As anxiety, irritability and depression are common symptoms of PCS, the antidepressant medications are the most effective treatment for both the headaches and psychological symptoms. Antidepressant medications have been used for decades in controlling migraine and other headache disorders. Over-the-counter analgesics can be used to relieve headache and neck pains. Narcotics should be avoided as they are addictive and do not help the overall patient outcome.  Mayo Clinic has an excellent, comprehensive summary of post-concussion syndrome.

In patients who have persistent complaints of memory loss, concentration difficulties, forgetfulness, anxiety and depression, neuropsychological testing followed by counseling can be helpful in patient management and improvement of symptoms. Testing is usually not done for at least 3-6 months following the head injury. This is because so many patients will spontaneously improve over this time period. Once testing is completed, the psychologist can help the patient through counseling to improve their overall well being. Other diagnostic tests may be performed and can include MRI brain studies, EEG or PET scan.

Prognosis for patients with PCS is excellent in the majority of the cases. Most patients are back to their normal baseline within a few weeks, with a few taking as long a 3 months. It is far less common for patients to continue having symptoms beyond this. It is estimated that only about 15% of patients with PCS will have symptoms a year or more. Early treatment by experienced neurologists or other physicians who have training in treatment of concussion, traumatic brain injuries and post-concussion syndrome are important in improving a patient’s quality of life in as short of period of time as possible.


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