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
– 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.
Posted in Botox, Migraines / Headache, Pain, Vertigo / Dizziness and tagged aspirin, Botox, brain, Cluster headaches, depression, Dr. Kassicieh, headache, headaches, memory, Memory loss, migraine, migraine treatment, neurologist, neurology, Pain by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
Parkinson’s disease is a complex constellation of symptoms. As reported in the August 30, 2011 issue of Neurology, neurologist care of Parkinson patients greatly improves their quality of life and long term clinical outcome. Parkinson disease affects approximately 1 million Americans. It is only second to Alzheimer’s disease as a common neurodegenerative illness. Early diagnosis, recognition of associated symptoms and comorbidities as well as comprehensive care are necessary if a Parkinson patient’s long term clinical outcomes and quality of life are to be maintained.
Neurology has commonly not been taught in the detail that is necessary in most medical schools. Medical students graduate, generally with a limited understanding of neurological diseases and the treatment required for each. Neurology has a vast scope of illnesses, each requiring intimate knowledge and understanding of the disease process as well as the treatment required to optimize patient well being and life quality. It is beyond the scope of medical school, internship and even family medicine or internal medicine residencies to train the young physician sufficiently in the details of neurological disease.
Across the United States, 15-20% of all visits to a primary care doctor’s office (family physician or internal medicine) involve a neurological complaint. While simple problems such as back or neck pain can easily be treated, more complicated illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches, seizures and multiple sclerosis should be managed by a neurologist – particularly a sub-specialist neurologist in the disease process needing treatment. Surveys in the United States, Europe and Asia show that both medical students and general physicians do not feel as comfortable in managing neurological problems as they do other common medical problems. The article in Neurology clearly shows that Parkinson patients, managed by a neurologist, have overall better outcomes than those managed by family physicians.
Parkinson patients managed by a neurologist have an earlier diagnosis. This leads to starting treatment earlier. With early intervention, patient functioning can be maintained and optimized. This allows for the patient and their families to enjoy more quality time together with an increased ability to engage in social activities and travel. The study reported in Neurology, looked at over 138,000 Parkinson patents. The finding of this study showed that about 20% of patents with Parkinson’s disease never see a neurologist. These patients had a higher rate of falling, hip fractures, nursing home admission and death at an earlier age.
Parkinson patents cared for by a neurologist, by contrast, significantly had fewer hip fractures. Hip fractures are a major cause of disability and death in the elderly. Inherent to Parkinson patients is gait instability and a tendency for stumbles and falls. Falling prevention is a main goal in all elderly patients, but particularly those with Parkinson’s disease. Unfortunately, many who suffer a hip fracture may become wheelchair confined, even with successful hip fracture repair. One third of all patients who suffer a hip fracture will die within a year of their fracture! The annual cost of managing a patient with a hip fracture is $20,000 per person – not including medical costs. With detailed care of all of a Parkinson patients symptoms, a neurologist can better prevent these patients from falling and suffering fractures.
The second finding of this study was that Parkinson patients getting state-of-the-art care by a neurologist had a lower probability of being admitted to a nursing home. While most Parkinson patients do not need nursing home care, those with more advanced disease, Parkinson related dementia or complications such as hip fractures frequently need skilled nursing facility placement. Parkinson’s disease is complex condition. Not only are the motor symptoms a major problem, but so are the cognitive and psychological problems that go along with this disease. Depression and anxiety occur in over fifty percent of Parkinson patients. Early recognition and treatment is critical for improved patent and caregiver quality of life. Dementia is also a common problem. It can start as mild memory loss but will progress. Neurologists are sensitive to these problems and there are medications as well as dietary supplements that help to improve these problems.
The final finding of the Neurology study was that there was a statistically significant increase in the six year survival of patients with Parkinson’s disease managed by a neurologist. There are multiple reasons why this may be the case, including earlier use of the many types of medications used in Parkinson management, treatment of coexisting psychiatric problems and addressing the multitude of other medical problems that are frequently associated with Parkinson’s disease.
The conclusion for Parkinson patients and their family or caregivers is to get that patient into see a neurologist, particularly a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders. Patients want more control over their life, improved quality of life and the ability to remain functional as long as possible. This is true for the Parkinson patient as well. Take control of your life, contact Sarasota Neurology for consultation and management of your Parkinson’s disease. It will most likely be the best thing you could do for yourself – for the rest of your life.
Posted in General Medicine, Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Movement Disorders, Parkinson's disease and tagged Alzheimer's, anxiety, dementia, depression, hip fracture, Memory loss, neurologist, neurology, Parkinson, Parkinson's disease, Sarasota neurologist by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
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.
Posted in Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Movement Disorders and tagged brain, dementia, depression, drug, drugs, gait, memory, movement disorder, Movement Disorders, nerve, neurologist, neurology, Quality of Life, Sarasota, Sarasota Neurology by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
Occipital neuralgia is a commonly missed headache diagnosis. The symptoms for headaches can be quite different. Occipital neuralgia can mimic migraine headaches but do not respond to standard migraine medications. Occipital neuralgia rarely occurs as a headache syndrome by itself. The majority of patients with occipital neuralgia have one or more other types of headache including: migraines, tension headache, rebound headache and cluster headaches. Occipital neuralgia is frequently misdiagnosed as migraine or cluster headaches. Patients with prominent face pain as part of their occipital neuralgia may be incorrectly diagnosed with tic delaroux (trigeminal neuralgia – a type of facial pain.)
Occipital neuralgia is caused by an irritation of the occipital nerve as is comes through the muscles in the back of the neck. The occipital nerve is formed from branches of the second and third cervical nerve roots. This nerve passes posteriorly up the back of the head, piercing through the muscles of the upper neck. The occipital nerve then curves over the back of the head to the frontal area, stopping at approximately the hair line. This nerve provides pain and sensory information over the back 2/3 of the head. When the nerve becomes irritated from various causes such as strained or tense neck muscles, whiplash injury, neck arthritis or even just sleeping wrong – getting a kink in your neck. These can all result in occipital neuralgia (also called occipital headache or occipital neuropathy).
The headache symptoms of occipital neuralgia include upper neck pain, pain at the base of the skull, which may be on one or both sides, and pain traveling up the back up the head as far forward as the forehead. Some patients experience pain behind the eyes or even facial pain. The pain is commonly made worse by laying on your back. The back of the head or scalp can be sore to touch. The head pain can be anywhere from a nagging aching pain to an excruciating migraine headache type of pain, which can be debilitating. The latter type of occipital neuralgia pain is frequently missed and instead treated as a migraine. Most migraine therapies do not work to relieve occipital neuralgia.
Diagnosis of occipital neuralgia is made by careful neurological examination of the patient. Most individuals have normal exams except for exquisite tenderness at the base of the skull, in the area of the occipital nerve. If pressing on this area reproduces the occipital head pain, the diagnosis is made. Treatments can include the use of anti-inflammatory agents such as aspirin, Tylenol, naproxen (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin.) Ice to the back of the neck and head can provide temporary relief. One of the most effective therapies, which can be curative for occipital neuralgia, is an occipital nerve block. This is a very safe procedure and consists of injecting a mixture of a local anesthetic with a long acting cortisone. This injection is put in the neck muscles just below the skull base, in the area where the occipital nerve pierces through the muscles. The needle is directed away from the spinal cord and is outside the skull so there is no chance of injury to the spinal cord or brain. The anesthetic works immediately and may cause some temporary scalp numbness. The cortisone is long acting – slow release so that it may take a week to be fully effective. Success rates of up to 80% have been reported. In patients with additional types of headaches, it is not uncommon to add an antidepressant to prevent migraines and other similar headaches. The antidepressants are the mainstay therapy in headache treatment and prevention and have nothing to do with their use for treatment of depression. If you think you have occipital neuralgia or have persistent headaches, particularly ones that are always on one side, you should seek out care from a neurologist who is also a headache specialist.
Posted in Migraines / Headache, Nerve Pain and tagged Advil, Aleve, antidepressant, antidepressants, aspirin, Cluster headaches, depression, face pain, headache, headache specialist, headache treatment, headaches, migraine, migraines, Motrin, neck pain, nerve, nerve block, neuralgia, neurologist, occipital, occipital headache, occipital nerve, occipital neuralgia, occipital neuropathy, rebound headache, symptoms of headaches, tic delaroux, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Tylenol by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
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 Alzheimer's, arthritis, aspirin, blood pressure, brain, cholesterol, depression, fish, fish oil, flax seed, good cholesterol, health, heart, heart attack, leg pain, macular degeneration, memory, Memory loss, omega 3, Parkinson, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Stroke by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
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.
Posted in Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Migraines / Headache and tagged antidepressants, anxiety, brain, brain injury, depression, dizziness, EEG, headache, headaches, Memory loss, migraine, MRI, MRI brain, neck pain, neuralgia, neurologist, PET scan, post-concussion syndrome, Quality of Life, vertigo by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
Many patients over the age of 65 complain of memory loss and are concerned they have dementia. Others attribute their memory loss to aging. While there is a very mild degree of memory loss associated with aging, it is usually not significant. For example, forgetting where you put your keys or where you parked your car. These are not serious memory problems. A more problematic degree of memory loss, while not dementia, is called Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). MCI is characterized by an increase level of forgetfulness. There are two primary types of MCI: (1) Amnestic MCI (2) Non-amnestic MCI. In patients affected with amnestic MCI, they have significant memory and recall difficulty. There is a stronger association with this type of MCI with Alzheimer’s disease. Non-amnestic MCI usually does not progress to Alzheimer’s disease but may go on to other types of dementia. The good news is that about fifty percent of all patient’s with MCI never progress to Alzheimer’s or any other dementia. MCI can also spontaneously improve and clear.
The American Academy of Neurology published criteria for the diagnosis of MCI: (1) Individuals reporting their awareness of memory difficulty – preferably confirmed by a spouse or child; (2) Measurable memory loss greater than would be expected for age; (3) Normal general thinking and reasoning skills; (4) Ability to perform routine daily activities. Frequently patients with MCI have specific areas in which they are having memory trouble whereas patients affected with dementia have more global memory difficulties. Also quite frequently, patients with dementia are unaware of having any memory problem at all.
Risk factors for MCI and mild memory loss include such things as high blood pressure, lower educational levels, lack of physical and mental activities and vascular disease. Vascular dementia is seen in patients that have had multiple small strokes. Abnormally low blood pressure, particularly in patients with significant brain vascular disease (hardening of the arteries) can be a cause of reversible memory loss. Depression can cause a condition of memory loss known as pseudo-dementia syndrome of depression. Fortunately this is treatable and the “memory loss” is reversible in this condition.
In those patients affected with MCI, they can go on to develop dementia, usually Alzheimer’s disease. The true incidence is difficult to measure and ranges between 27-65% depending on which study one reads. Some studies have shown that the use of memory loss medications such as donzepil (Aricept®) can help improve memory function and potentially slow the progression of memory loss. It should be noted that in patients over the age of 70, approximately 12% will have some degree of memory difficulty. This is highly variable from patient to patient.
In summary, if you have a sense that you have memory difficulty, do not attribute it to normal aging. Consider seeing a neurologist trained in evaluating memory disorders and Alzheimer’s disease. You have everything to gain by improving your quality of life.
Posted in Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Stroke and tagged Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease, Aricept, dementia, depression, high blood pressure, MCI, memory, Memory loss, Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease, mild cognitive impairment, neurologist, Quality of Life, Stroke by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) is a rare disorder that is characterized by progressive gait difficulty, urinary incontinence and memory loss. Although the press has covered this topic extensively in both the written and video media, true normal pressure hydrocephalus remains quite uncommon. The underlying problem is actually an excessive build up of spinal fluid in the brain. The areas of the brain that stores this fluid are known as the ventricles. In NPH, the spinal fluid flows out of the brain but, due to reasons that are not entirely clear, there is a build up of excessive fluid in the brain. This results in enlarged ventricles causing a condition called communicating hydrocephalus.
Normal pressure hydrocephalus develops very slowly, over months to years. It is usually seen in individuals over the age of 65. As the ventricles slowly increase in size, affected patients begin to show signs of slowed, wide based, unsteady gait. Urinary incontinence may also develop during this time. Later during the disease process memory loss begins. All of the symptoms are very slowly progressive. Patients can be diagnosed incorrectly with Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression or just dementia.
The gait difficulty comes from the fact the the nerve fibers that control walking and balance become stretched as the ventricles enlarge. With this comes progressively worsening gait imbalance and falling. Patients may complain of weakness and fatigue. Patients will actually will tell you that their feet feel stuck to the ground, giving rise to the term magnetic gait. Memory loss seen in normal pressure involves mainly recall and slowness of thinking. Recognition of objects, tasks and individuals is better preserved. Without careful testing however, one can easily make the mistake of making an erroneous diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease versus normal pressure hydrocephalus associated dementia. Urinary incontinence is a later finding in the disease process. There is an increasing need to urinate more frequently and urgently. If the dementia progresses too far, patients will become indifferent to their incontinence.
Diagnosis is made by obtaining an MRI or CT brain scan. The ventricles appear enlarged in the absence of brain atrophy (shrinkage.) As a normal process of aging, there is a certain amount of atrophy. It other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism or in patient’s who have received chemotherapy, brain atrophy can be more prominent. The key in diagnosing NPH is that the degree of ventricular enlargement is out of proportion to the expected degree of atrophy. The degree of ventricular enlargement can be measured as a ratio to the degree of atrophy. The second step in diagnosis, after a complete neurological exam, is to do a diagnostic spinal tap (lumbar puncture.) During this procedure, 1-2 ounces of spinal fluid is drained off. The patient is then tested to see if their gait improves.
Treatment for confirmed cases of normal pressure hydrocephalus is a brain surgery procedure know as a ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement. In this procedure, a tube is placed in the ventricles and the other end drains into the abdomen. The tube is run under the skin. Spinal fluid is then absorbed in the abdomen. There is no known effective medical treatment for NPH. Early diagnosis and treatment is important as the gait disorder and urinary symptoms can be alleviated. Once the memory loss has begun, this cannot be reversed.
In order to have the accurate diagnosis of normal pressure hydrocephalus, a patient should be seen by a neurologist or neurosurgeon familiar with the condition. It is not necessarily easily diagnosed, even by experienced physicians. Nonspecific gait disorder is common with advancing age. Dementia is also common, particularly over the age of 70. Stroke, Parkinson’s disease and low thyroid can mimic the symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus. The main point is that of all these conditions, true normal pressure hydrocephalus occurs very rarely and is generally considered a diagnosis of exclusion of every other problem plus meet the diagnostic criteria listed above.
Posted in Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Movement Disorders and tagged Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease, brain surgery, dementia, depression, gait, hydrocephalus, lumbar puncture, Memory loss, Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, neurologist, normal pressure hydrocephalus, Parkinson, Parkinson's disease, shunt, spinal fluid, spinal tap, Stroke, urinary incontinence by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
The FDA has recently approved the dementia fighting drug Exelon in a patch form. The new formulation, Transdermal Exelon, offers patients a new and unique way to get medication which can help with improving cognitive function and slow down memory loss in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The new patch is also FDA approved for patients with Parkinson associated dementia. This is the second patch approved for use in treatment of Parkinson disease. The other is Neupro, a transdermal patch containing the dopamine agonist rotigotine.
Transdermal Exelon joins the group of other medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, such as Aricept, Razadyne and Namenda. The patch for of Exelon offers the advantage of not having to take a pill twice daily, continuous medication administration through the skin and less stomach upset. Another advantage is that the patch demonstrated beneficial effects equivalent to the maximum oral dosing of this medication. The problem with the oral medication was intolerance due to nausea and vomiting. While much less, there were some reports of stomach upset with Transdermal Exelon. Another side effect, common to most patch medications, was that of skin irritation. The patch needs to be changed daily and administration sites should be rotated, not using the same site more than once every two weeks. While Exelon, Aricept and Razadyne are in the same chemical family of memory disorder drugs – the acetylcholine esterase inhibitors – Namenda is in a class by itself. For this reason, it can be used in combination with any of the other three. Studies have shown that there is a beneficial effect in improving cognitive function with combining these two different types of medication. Studies are looking into the use of these medications for patients with mild cognitive impairment. These are individuals who have some memory loss but do not fit the criteria to be diagnosed with dementia. Depression, manifesting as dementia, also needs to be excluded.
Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic debilitating illness that slowly robs patients of their memory, cognitive abilities and ability to function independently. They become more and more dependent on others to provide care and transportation for them. Even dressing, eating and bathing become impossible for them to perform without assistance. With the availability of these new memory drugs, the progression of the debilitating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson disease associated dementia can be slowed down. Some patients actually show functional improvement. Unfortunately, none of these medications halt the progression of the disease. Eventually their quality of life deteriorates and others will need to assist with care giving. The benefit of these medications is that they significantly slow the progression of the disease, possibly keeping loved ones at home, instead of a nursing home, for anywhere from 6-18 months. If you have a loved one with memory loss, early diagnosis and treatment is important. Studies are ongoing to show that with earlier treatment, patients do better over extended periods of time. Bring your family member with memory loss to a neurologist for a complete evaluation.
Posted in Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, Parkinson's disease and tagged acetylcholine, Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's disease, Aricept, cognitive function, dementia, depression, dopamine agonist, Exelon, FDA, memory, Memory loss, Memory Loss / Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia, mild cognitive impairment, Namenda, Neupro, neurologist, Parkinson, Parkinson disease, Quality of Life, Razadyne, rotigotine, Transdermal Exelon by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic muscle pain disorder that has no underlying identifiable cause. Sufferers have muscle pain, multiple areas of tenderness and fatigue. It is a poorly understood disorder, with many physicians not even acknowledging that it is a real illness. There is , however ample evidence that fibromyalgia is a real condition as it has been estimated that as many as 6 million Americans suffer from this affliction annually. Patients typically see several physicians and become frustrated when all their testing comes back normal. Other accompanying symptoms may include poor sleep hygiene, headache, mental clouding (fibromyalgia fog) and depression. Although this conditions rarely clears, suffers can be treated successfully with a combination of medications and regular exercise.
The FDA has recently approved Lyrica as the first drug specifically for fibromyalgia treatment. Lyrica (pregabalin) was originally approved for treatment of seizures and painful diabetic neuropathy. Based on two large, double-blind studies with 1,800 patients enrolled, the FDA approved labeling for Lyrica to be used in the non-narcotic control of fibromyalgia pain. The exact mechanism by which Lyrica controls the pain of fibromyalgia is not well understood. I have used this drug extensively in my practice to help individuals with fibromyalgia, who have failed other therapies. With FDA approval, more insurance companies will be compelled to cover this otherwise costly medication.
Other medications have been used to help patients with fibromyalgia. Medications in the tricyclic antidepressant family such as amitriptyline, nortriptyline and trazodone have been used with varying degrees of success. Some anti-inflammatory medication may be helpful as well. In combination with medications, it is important for patients with fibromyalgia to get some type of regular exercise that involves muscle resistance. The combination of medications and exercise provide the best hope for controlling the symptoms of fibromyalgia as there is no definitive cure. Mayo Clinic published an excellent summary of fibromyalgia. If you feel that you have this condition, find a neurologist or rheumatologist in your area that has knowledge in treating this condition.
Posted in Back Pain, Nerve Pain and tagged amitriptyline, depression, diabetic neuropathy, FDA approval, fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia fog, fibromyalgia treatment, headache, Lyrica, muscle pain, neurologist, Neuropathy, seizure, Seizures, trazodone, tricyclic antidepressant by Dan Kassicieh, D.O.