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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In this episode of the Sarasota Neurology Podcast, Dr. Kassicieh, a recognized Parkinson’s disease expert, provides an overview of the disease and current techniques for managing it.

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Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease seen in the United States. Only Alzheimer’s disease is more common. They both share the common fact that they are progressive neurological diseases that result in patients losing functional ability. Alzheimer’s disease affects memory, the ability to remember how to do things and general loss of mental function. Alzheimer’s patients are mostly not aware of the fact that they are neurologically deteriorating. They will make excuses for their memory short comings. Like Parkinson’s disease it is important to recognize Alzheimer’s early so that treatment can be started and outcomes will be improved.

Parkinson’s disease is primarily a progressive loss of the ability to move normally. There is a gradual slowing of movements as well as doing routine tasks such as shaving, dressing and getting ready to go out. Walking is affected and patients tend to shuffle with a forward stoop. Although tremor is common in Parkinson’s patients, not all have this. The converse is true: not everyone with tremor has Parkinson’s disease. There are many treatment available for Parkinson patients to improve their quality of life.

Not everything that shakes is Parkinson’s. If you are concerned that you or someone you love may be suffering from this or another movement disorder, please call (941) 955-5858 or click here to schedule your appointment today. If you’re outside the Sarasota area and unable to travel here, please locate a movement disorder specialist in your area.


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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.


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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.


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Normal pressure hydrocephalus once again appears in the news. Zig Ziglar, a well known motivational speaker, recently was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus. About a year ago, Mr. Ziglar had suffered a fall down a flight of stairs, as referenced on a blog from Michael Pink. His family had noticed that Mr. Ziglar was having some memory loss associated with gait unsteadiness.  The characteristic clinical symptoms of normal pressure hydrocephalus are gait unsteadiness, memory loss and urinary incontinence. The exact cause of this condition is unknown but what happens is there is a build up of water (spinal fluid) on the brain. Diagnosis is difficult to make and one should see a neurologist familiar with the condition. The treatment for this is putting a special tube in the brain, known as a shunt. This is a fairly routine neurosurgical procedure.

For the diagnosis of normal pressure hydrocephalus, a patient should first have a CT scan or MRI brain scan. If the spaces in the brain that contain spinal fluid (ventricles) are enlarged, the patient should then have a spinal tap. About an ounce of spinal fluid taken drained off. Then the patient will have gait testing to see if their walking improves. If it does but then worsens a few hours later, the diagnosis is made. A brain shunt can then be permanently put in by a qualified neurosurgeon. Patient’s with true normal pressure hydrocephalus can show dramatic improvements in their ability to walk with gait training rehabilitation. The urinary incontinence will also improve. Unfortunately, if they have a degree of short term memory loss, this procedure will have little if any effect on restoring memory. It is this author’s hope that Zig Ziglar has improved and is doing well with his new brain shunt. To find out more about Zig Ziglar, check his blog site.


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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.


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