Category Archives: Articles

Acute pain in a neck at the young women

Ouch! Hey, There’s a Doctor for That.

The treatment of pain has become a specialty in medicine, like neurosurgery and podiatry.

You’re hurting. You’ve been hurting for a bit. So why not see a pain doctor. “Aren’t all doctors ‘pain doctors’?,” you ask. Actually, no. The treatment of pain has become its own specialty.

“Seeing a pain physician comes after seeing your primary care physician and usually before seeing a surgeon as a way to treat pain. And often after having surgery too,” says Kenneth Varley, MD, an interventional pain physician with Southern Pain Specialists in Birmingham.

When pain becomes the disease. “When the primary cause of your pain is as good as it’s going to get, then now the pain is the disease,” says Dr. Varley. That’s chronic pain, and that’s what pain doctors excel at treating. He says 70% of his patients come to him suffering from back pain.

Interventional what?
Interventional pain physicians (IPP) focus on treatments that don’t rely solely on narcotics, including psychological and behavioral methods, along with medical approaches.

Where does it hurt?
”Our primary function is diagnosis. That seems obvious, right?,” says Dr. Varley, a diplomate of the American Board of Pain Medicine. But IPPs focus on discovering the exact source of the pain, such as a nerve or disk tissue. “Then to prove our diagnosis, we inject an anesthetic into that nerve or area,” he says. “If we’re right, the pain goes away.” If not, they keep looking.

Make it go away.
“The first line of pain treatment is usually an injection of steroids, because 80% of pain is caused by inflammation,” says Dr. Varley. He also uses radio frequency to stop nerves from sending pain signals, prescribes medications, and utilizes techniques ranging from intradiscal electrothermal therapy (IDET) to laser discectomies.

Isn’t there a pill for that? Possibly. And some types of pain physicians focus on narcotics as their treatment. “But our ideal is to get patients off narcotics,” says Dr. Varley. “Even better is to let us see you before you start on a downward spiral of more and more pain medications.”

Time is not your friend.
“A lot of chronic pain is from a failure to treat it early,” stresses Dr. Varley. He says 50% to 60% of the patients he sees could have prevented their chronic pain with early intervention.

So now you know these medical experts exist who focus only on pain relief, find yourself one. Patience is not a virtue when it comes to chronic pain.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Varley, click here.
For more on Southern Pain Specialists, click here.

This article written and brought to you by BirminghamDoctors.com.

It Takes More than Heart

It Takes More than Heart

Where your heart health is concerned, coronary artery disease Is actually the big threat.

Oh sure, the heart gets all the publicity. People say, “What a big heart!” and “She’s so strong-hearted.” And it was, after all, the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes that day that saved Christmas.

But it’s the tiny coronary arteries that keep that all-important pump filled with oxygen-rich blood. So if something goes wrong with those tiny vessels, then your one-and-only heart truly suffers.

But they’re just little tubes. Coronary artery disease (CAD), also called coronary heart disease, is the leading cause of death in the U.S. in both men and women. Unfortunately, these delicate vessels easily fall prey to blockages from plaque build-up that narrows their width. “But fortunately, you’re born with a heart that pumps more blood than you need. You have reserves,” says Clifton Lewis, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon with Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons in Birmingham.

Surely I’ll know when there’s trouble. “Some people need only a little blockage in one area to disable them with symptoms, while another person has almost everything closed off, and their first symptom is a heart attack. It’s all variable,” says Dr. Lewis, who’s been a board certified cardiothoracic surgeon for 22 years.

The two symptoms people ignore. “Fatigue and shortness of breath, particularly in women,” says Dr. Lewis. “Their energy and breath consistently give out quickly when they’re exerting themselves. In diabetics, they’re usually just tired.”

Oil your arteries. “Most people stumble into poor health,” says Dr. Lewis. “But if you’re eating fish, you may be stumbling into good health.” Some cold-water fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, known to help reduce the build-up of plaque in arteries.

There’s no cure, so pay attention. “Coronary artery disease is a chronic, progressive, incurable disease. We don’t cure it; we make people live longer and relieve the disease,” says Dr. Lewis. “It’s a big unpleasant experience to get a bypass, so your goal is to not ever need me.”

He adds that to increase your odds of avoiding CAD, lead a healthy lifestyle: no smoking (even smokeless tobacco), stay lean, make exercise a religious endeavor, and eat a healthy diet. Otherwise, you may find yourself literally “broken-hearted”.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Lewis, click here.
For more on Cardio-Thoracic Surgeons PC, click here.

This article written and brought to you by BirminghamDoctors.com.

A Talk with Dr. Mia Cowan

A Talk with Dr. Mia Cowan

“I like to fix problems,” says Mia Cowan, MD, FACOG, MA, MBA. “I loved surgery, but I also love educating people on their health and disease prevention.”

By her third year at the Medical College of Wisconsin, she knew she had found how she could best serve patients with her trifecta of healing skills — gynecology.

Her mother, a nurse, first implanted the idea of Mia becoming a doctor by taking her along on home visits. “I remember in the seventh grade telling my mom that I wanted to be a doctor,” she says.

After her gynecological residency in Wisconsin — where she also met and married her husband — Dr. Mia Cowan returned to Birmingham and spent four years serving the indigent in Jefferson County.

Then in the fall of 2010, she stepped out on her own to open her dream practice. It revolves around making women feel both healthy and beautiful. “I want my patients to look good and feel good about themselves,” she says.

MiBella Wellness Center now includes not only her thriving gynecological practice, but a weight loss program. For this component, Dr. Cowan completed extensive training at the Center for Medical Weight Loss, which is the largest network of physicians focused on bariatric medicine in the country.

“Weight loss can be a very emotional thing, so we have a very encouraging staff,” she says. Weight problems, she says, contribute to so many chronic health conditions, like osteoarthritis, back pain, hypertension and diabetes, that it deserves special attention from physicians. “It’s something I’ve struggled with myself,” she adds.

To further fulfill MiBella Wellness’ mission of “a beautiful approach to health,” Dr. Cowan recently began offering cosmetic procedures. The first one, called Smartlipo, uses a laser to melt and destroy fat cells, which are then easily removed.

In every aspect of her practice, Dr. Cowan has instilled the call of service. “We do almost a concierge kind of service here. I even give my patients my cell phone number. But we educate them so well on any health issues that I rarely get a call,” she says. “I’ve been able to build my practice on referral alone because of our strong belief in service.”

Having attended both University of Alabama for her undergraduate and master’s degrees and Auburn University for her MBA, her allegiance to Birmingham couldn’t be stronger. She and her husband Joseph live in Hoover with their daughter Marley (named after Bob Marley). Not surprisingly, she loves Jamaica and hopes to travel more frequently soon.

by Jane Ehrhardt

To read more about Dr. Mia Cowan, click here.
For more on MiBella Wellness Center, click here.

This article written and brought to you by BirminghamDoctors.com.

many rubber gloves touching the face of a young woman

How to Choose the Right Cosmetic Procedure

Choosing that beautiful outcome you desire seemed so easy. But deciding which plastic surgery technique to use takes some careful thought. Your body is a priceless package, so approach cosmetic procedures with open eyes and sharp questions.

 

Fad or Fact. We all want a miracle, but beware. “They come and go, and they keep coming and they keep going,” says Dr. Peter Van Hoy, a leading plastic surgeon in Birmingham for 28 years who practices at Premier Plastic Surgery Center. “Resist the urge to immediately embrace the latest and greatest product, because people find out later that most of them don’t work,” he warns. “And it can take at least a year for that information to surface.” He points to the examples of RF (radio frequency) facelifts, thread facelifts, and drugs that claim to dissolve fat.

 

Use your common sense. Sometimes it’s not the procedure that’s creating those fabulous results. If a weight loss process says it involves injections and putting you on a 600-calorie diet, “do you think it’s the expensive injection or that strict diet creating those results?” says Dr. Van Hoy.

 

FDA approval doesn’t mean it works. The FDA’s job is to ensure the piece of equipment used in a cosmetic surgery is safe for its intended use on your body. They do not test for or ensure whether it will really lessen the look of aging or actually reduce fat in your thighs.

 

Check the Board. Go to the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or your plastic surgeon and ask for their position paper on that procedure. “ABPS studies new techniques with unbiased observers, so you can verify whether a procedure worked or not,” says Dr. Van Hoy.

 

“If it’s new, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. But I would be very reluctant to do anything that was not out a year or two and not reviewed in a medical journal,” sums up Dr. Van Hoy. “Not because something terrible might happen to you, but because you’re going to waste your money.”

by Jane Ehrhardt

 

Hear Dr. Van Hoy, talk about his philosophy on plastic surgery, click here.

To read more about Dr. Van Hoy, click here.

For more on Premier Plastic Surgery Center, click here.

This article written and brought to you by BirminghamDoctors.com.

Professionally Pearly Whites for the New Year

Professionally Pearly Whites for the New Year

Treat Your Smile to a Deep Bleaching Like No Other

It cannot be denied that an extra bling in your smile makes people notice you. So as you kick off your New Year’s resolutions, you might consider adding this unique teeth whitening to your list and put some punch in your pearlies.

 

Not found at every dentist’s fingertips. In Birmingham, you can find this unusually powerful teeth whitening option at Greystone Smile Design. “Like most dentists, we’ve been frustrated at not getting the whitening results our patients want,” says Dr. Trenton Buchanan. “But the Kor Deep Bleaching system solves all our concerns.”

 

Whitens even tetracycline-stained teeth. “Everyone tells these patients that whitening can’t be done, and they’ll have to get veneers. But the first Deep Bleaching we did on a tetracycline patient, their teeth improved by 8 to 10 shades,” says Dr. Buchanan. Age and congenital teeth stains don’t hold any barriers to this system either.

 

The trays actually fit. “These are the perfect trays, and they’re what make your teeth just unbelievably white,” says Dr. Buchanan. Using highly detailed impressions, the company creates a fit so perfect to your teeth that the solution stays active at full strength for almost six hours each night. “With other trays, saliva leaks in, so you’re only getting about two to three hours of bleaching.”

 

No discomfort. “One of our patients recently told me that he started eating breakfast before he realized he still had his trays in,” laughs Dr. Buchanan. “It’s the superbly tight fit. It makes for a comfortable fit and keeps the solution away from your gums.”

 

It’s cool. Even room temperature drains the potency from a bleaching solution. At Greystone, the solution stays cold during shipping, in their office cooler, and then into your fridge. “I don’t think anybody else pays attention to this detail,” points out Dr. Buchanan. So unlike with other whitening systems, your teeth receive the full power of the 16% carbamide peroxide.

 

How it’s done. With Deep Bleaching, you use the trays to apply the solution every night for 2 weeks. Deeper stained teeth may require up to 8 weeks. After a final hour-long office visit, where you get 3 short treatments of a more powerful solution, you use the trays as needed for maintenance. It’s a one-time process, fit for anyone from 19 to 90, at the cost of less than one veneer.

by Jane Ehrhardt

 

For videos showing before/after examples or more about Deep Bleaching, click here.

To read more about Dr. Buchanan, click here.

For more on Greystone Smile Design, click here.

This article written and brought to you by BirminghamDoctors.com.