Living with Emphysema: What Are Your Treatment Options?

As of the time this was written, over 406,000 Americans have lost their lives due to COVID-19. Many of them were vulnerable to the disease because of pre-existing chronic conditions such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), and emphysema. Emphysema is a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. It is typically caused by long-term exposure to airborne irritants, primarily tobacco smoke, but also marijuana smoke, chemical fumes and dust, and air pollution. For the over three million Americans with an emphysema diagnosis, day-to-day living with the disease is often marked by discomfort and lifestyle limitations. If you are among the millions living with this incurable disease, there are treatment options that can mitigate your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Emphysema Treatment Options

Emphysema causes the lung’s air sacs to deteriorate. As a result, less lung surface area leads to shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. There is a range of treatment options for emphysema. Depending on your condition’s severity and any other health issues or risk factors you may be living with, your doctor will recommend an appropriate treatment plan.

Therapy

  • Pulmonary rehabilitation. You learn breathing techniques to improve your breathing and ability to complete cardiovascular exercise.
  • Nutrition therapy. Proper nutrition and weight loss can improve life in the early stages of emphysema.
  • Supplemental oxygen. Patients with severe emphysema that causes low blood oxygen levels may be prescribed regular oxygen use up to 24 hours per day.

Medications

  • Drugs that relieve breathing problems and coughing by relaxing tightened airways. They are available as inhalers in powder and metered dose forms and through nebulizer machines that convert a liquid to aerosol.
  • Corticosteroid drugs inhaled as aerosol sprays. Reduce inflammation and may lessen shortness of breath. The brand Advair brings salmeterol (a bronchodilator) and fluticasone (a corticosteroid) together.
  • If your emphysema is worsened by bronchitis or pneumonia, antibiotics may improve respiratory symptoms.
  • Oral steroids. Oral steroids like prednisone can improve lung function.
  • Mucolytic agents. Coming in the form of expectorants, they help to bring mucus up from the lungs.

Surgery

  • Lung volume reduction surgery. A surgeon will remove small wedges of damaged lung tissue to allow the remaining tissue to expand and work more efficiently. Lung reduction surgery is generally not performed on older adults due to health risks.
  • Lung transplant. When lung damage is severe and other treatment options fail, lung transplantation may be the most viable option.

Long-Term Outlook

Without lifestyle changes and treatment, emphysema can cause tissue injury and eventually become fatal. While there’s no cure for emphysema, by working with your doctor and following their treatment plan, you can keep your condition from worsening to the point where only an invasive procedure can improve your lifestyle.

If you need help quitting smoking, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Placebo Effect: Is it Real, or is it Fake?

placebo noun

pla·ce·bo | \ plə-ˈsē-(ˌ)bō \
plural placebos
Definition of placebo
1: a usually pharmacologically inert preparation prescribed more for the mental relief of the patient than for its actual effect on a disorder

2: something tending to soothe

More commonly, the placebo effect is known as the mind’s ability to convince your body that a false treatment is real, producing physical improvements.

If something appears in the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary, it must be legitimate. Right? Something about this idea of a physical substance that offers relief through mental trickery sounds like something akin to magic.

The placebo effect has been a healing approach employed by caregivers for millennia, and modern-day scientists rely on placebos in research and clinical trials. Yet, patients still doubt the possibility of a pill that can soothe symptoms without medicine by merely making the patient believe its efficacy.

Is the placebo effect real, or is it a myth? For the answer, we turn to science.

More Than the Power of Positive Thinking

Researchers tell us that while there are emotional and physical benefits to positive thinking, the placebo effect is stronger than the concept of mind over matter. It can be equally as effective as some medical treatments in certain circumstances.

It is vital to understand that placebos are not cures. They cannot remove scar tissue from your heart or heal a broken bone. Placebos can, however, mitigate the symptoms associated with some conditions. More specifically, placebos can impact the body’s sensation of symptoms regulated by the brain. Situations in which the placebo effect can be useful include stress-related insomnia, pain management, and some cancer side effects, like nausea and exhaustion.

Researchers believe that to maximize the possibility of the placebo effect, you need to pair it with the mind’s understanding of the ritual of treatment. It is not enough to swallow a pill. We must believe that we are being treated by a caregiver and trust that we are being prescribed a legitimate solution as part of a formal plan for the placebo effect to be as effective as possible.

The Role of Placebos in Clinical Trials

The placebo effect has long been used in clinical trials to test the efficacy of new drugs and treatment modalities before they enter the market. To ensure that a medication or treatment produces the intended benefits, researchers will give a segment of a clinical trial group a placebo—often a sugar pill with no medicinal qualities.

In a blind study, neither the group that received the placebo nor the group that received the drug knows which version they received. In this way, researchers can help mitigate the possibility of the placebo effect—patients believing that they are experiencing benefits, and reporting them back to researchers, simply because they have been told that they are receiving a viable treatment. As an alternate approach, both groups are told that they have received the treatment being tested. If both groups report improvements (or none), researchers know that the drug or treatment is not effective.

The Reliability and Ongoing Mystery of the Placebo

Scientists are still not entirely sure why placebos are effective, although they believe a complicated neurobiological reaction in the brain is involved. Is it a surprise that the mind, which has the power to release feel-good endorphins, can be leveraged to soothe pain and mental anguish through some harmless coaxing?

If there is anything that we can learn from the placebo effect and the mysteries surrounding its efficacy, it is this: your mind is a powerful ally in your quest for healing. Treat yourself kindly, listen to your body, and prioritize activities and rituals that promote positivity and wellness. With a positive outlook and a team of caregivers you trust, you put yourself in the best position to live a healthy, happy life.

Nova Health Welcomes Rich Hamblin, PA-C, Adds Primary Care Services to Klamath Falls Clinic Location

Rich Hamblin PA-C

Eugene, OR – January 18, 2021 – Nova Health, a provider of high-quality, convenient primary and urgent care services in the Western United States, has announced the addition of Rich Hamblin, PA-C, to its team of healthcare providers. Hamblin will begin accepting patients at Nova Health’s Klamath Falls clinic, located at 3737 Shasta Way, Ste A, Klamath Falls, Oregon 97603. With the addition of Hamblin, Nova Health will begin offering primary health care services at the Klamath Falls clinic.

Hamblin brings Nova Health over seventeen years of experience as a licensed physician assistant, focusing on primary care for family practices in underserved communities. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, he graduated from the Bouve College of Health Sciences, an accredited physician assistant master’s program at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. Hamblin began his clinical career as an EMT and a hemodialysis technician at a Kidney Dialysis Center in Napa, California. He then served as a certified physician assistant in both family medicine and urgent care settings in several medical practices throughout Oregon before joining Nova Health.

“At this stage in my career, joining Nova Health, I feel like I am exactly where I want and need to be,” said Hamblin. “I have long been aware of Nova Health’s reputation as a quality healthcare system with a focused commitment to rural and underserved communities. I am thrilled to be part of a team known for its excellence and am excited to bring my style of compassionate care to Nova Health patients.”

Nova Health Medical Director of Primary Care Services, Dr. Lyle Torguson, said he knew that Hamblin was the ideal addition to Nova Health the first time they spoke.

“Rich has a unique way of making patients feel comfortable and comforted in his presence,” said Dr. Torguson. “He is knowledgeable and practical, generous, and genuine, and we could not be happier to call him a member of Nova Health. Adding Rich to our team means that we can provide patients in the Klamath Falls region a reliable primary care offering, helping us to further our commitment of ensuring quality, family patient care in Southwestern, Oregon.”

Nova Health Welcomes Family Practitioner Emily Herrmann, PA-C

Emily Herrmann PA-C

Eugene, OR – January 18, 2021 – Nova Health, a provider of high-quality, convenient primary and urgent care services in the Western United States, has announced the addition of Emily Herrmann, PA-C, to its team of healthcare providers. Herrmann will begin accepting patients at Nova Health’s Lebanon clinic, located at 3400 Cooperative Way, Lebanon, OR 97355.

Herrmann earned her Master of Science Degree in Physician Assistant Studies in 2020 from Pacific University in Hillsboro, Oregon, where she was an Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Scholar. She is thrilled to begin her career as a member of Nova Health’s compassionate care team.

“Earing a position with Nova Health represents the realization of a goal nearly a decade in the making,” said Herrmann. “I knew when I decided to pursue a career in medicine that it would be both challenging and rewarding. I am fortunate to have had the highest quality education and mentorship over the past eight years and am ready to take what I’ve learned and use it to bring comfort, care, and healing to this community.”

Dr. Lyle Torguson, Nova Health Medical Director of Primary Care Services, said Herrmann is one of the brightest and most enthusiastic recent master’s program graduates he has encountered.

“We are so glad that Emily wanted to join Nova Health,” said Dr. Torguson. “She is exceptionally caring and knowledgeable and represents everything we look for in a member of our care team. I anticipate that her fellow healthcare providers will learn just as much from her as she will from them. It’s that kind of collaborative teamwork that defines our Nova Health culture.”

Pancreatic Cancer Risk Factors and Symptoms

In 2020 an estimated 57,600 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the U.S. Sadly, more than 47,050 lost their lives to the disease. Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, with more people dying from pancreatic cancer than breast cancer. Can anything be done to prevent this dangerous disease? How can you tell if you are experiencing symptoms and who is most at risk throughout their lives? We’re providing these answers so that you can stay vigilant and stay safe.

As with all forms of cancer, early detection is crucial to survival. While pancreatic cancer is mostly incurable, if caught early, it can be treated. Up to ten percent of early diagnosed patients who receive treatment can become cancer-free. The average survival time is three to three-and-a-half years for those who receive a diagnosis before the tumor spreads or grows.

What is Pancreatic Cancer?

The pancreas is an abdominal organ that lies behind the lower part of the stomach. The pancreas releases enzymes that help with digestion and creates hormones to help manage blood sugar. Cancerous and non-cancerous tumors can grow in the tissues of the organ. The most common form of cancer begins in the cells that line the ducts that move enzymes out of the organ. This type of tumor is known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Pancreatic cancer often does not cause any symptoms until it spreads to nearby organs, which is partly why it has such a high fatality rate. When patients do begin to experience symptoms, they often include:

  • Abdominal pain often felt in the back
  • A Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin
  • Fatigue
  • Light-colored stools
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Itchy skin
  • Onset diabetes, or difficulty controlling an existing case of diabetes
  • Blood clots

Who is at Risk of Pancreatic Cancer?

Many controllable factors can increase one’s risk of developing pancreatic cancer, as well as some uncontrollable risk factors. The following can all increase one’s risk of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis:

  • Smoking: Smokers have nearly two times as high of a risk of developing pancreatic cancer as non-smokers; about 25% of pancreatic cancer cases are believed to be caused by cigarette smoking.
  • Age: Most pancreatic cancer patients are over age 45, and the average age at diagnosis is 70.
  • Family History: There is some indication that pancreatic cancer may run in families.
  • Sex: Men are at a greater risk than women, although this may be associated with their higher tobacco use rate.
  • Diet: People whose diets are high in sugar or red meat are at increased pancreatic cancer risk.
  • Obesity: Individuals with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more are about 20% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
  • Chronic Pancreatitis: This is a condition marked by long-term pancreas inflammation. It is often associated with heavy smoking and alcohol use.
  • Diabetes: Patients with diabetes, and particularly type II diabetes, are at an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Race: African Americans are slightly at greater risk of pancreatic cancer, although this may be due to their greater risk of other factors such as diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use.
  • Chemical Exposure: Individuals exposed to some chemical hazards during work, particularly metal workers and those who work near dry cleaning chemicals, are at increased risk.

When to Talk to Your Doctor

Leading a healthy lifestyle, having a primary care provider, and participating in regular wellness screenings are all factors that can mitigate your risk of developing a variety of dangerous conditions. When it comes to cancer, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to successful treatment and recovery. If you believe that you may be at risk of pancreatic cancer, or are suffering from symptoms, talk to your doctor. If you need help quitting smoking, reducing your alcohol use, or improving your diet, your doctor can provide resources to help you get healthy and lower your risk of a cancer diagnosis.

Achilles Tendon Problems? How to Heal and When to Get Help

healing achilles tendon problems

The mythological Greek warrior Achilles had one vulnerability—his heel. Anyone who has ever experienced pain or an injury to the tendon that shares Achilles’ name knows all too well the debilitating pain caused by an injury to the small but crucial tendon that connects the calf muscles to the heel. Also known as the calcaneal tendon, it is the thickest and most powerful tendon in the body. When your calf muscles contract, they lift the heel by the Achilles tendon, creating the action that allows you to walk, jump, and run. A rupture, dislocation, tear, or a case of tendonitis in the Achilles can be extremely painful and slow to heal. What can you do to prevent an injury to your Achilles heel, and when should you see your doctor about your pain?

How to Prevent Injuries to Your Achilles Heel

Active adults, especially those who participate in such recreational activities as soccer, basketball, and tennis that involve a lot of running, jumping, and fast stops, are at an increased risk of an Achilles heel injury. To protect your tendons:

  • Stretch regularly to strengthen your calf muscles.
  • If you are just beginning a new fitness routine, build up your time, distance, frequency, and intensity slowly.
  • Vary your fitness routine, maintaining a balance between low and high-impact activities. Low-impact activities include swimming, biking, and walking, and high-impact activities include running, rugby, skiing, and gymnastics.
  • Avoid running on hard or slippery surfaces. If you enjoy winter weather running, wear athletic shoes that fit correctly and cushion your heels.

How to Manage Achilles Heel Pain

If you are experiencing discomfort in your Achilles from overuse, consider the pain management treatments below. If you believe you have experienced a tear, rupture, or a more severe injury, talk to your doctor immediately.

  • While challenging and frustrating to active individuals and those who play sports, resting is one of the best steps you can take to minimize Achilles-related pain.
  • Stretching will help you to regain your range of motion.
  • Use a cold compress to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Talk to your doctor about tissue regeneration therapy, a process that uses acoustic waves to stimulate the development of newer, stronger blood vessels in damaged tissues.

When to Talk to Your Doctor About Achilles Heel Pain

If your pain begins at the onset of an injury, especially if you hear a popping or snapping sound at the time of the event, see a doctor immediately, as you may have experienced an Achilles tendon tear or rupture. Pain that builds up over time due to overuse or pain caused by a partial tear may not require invasive treatment, but you should still make an appointment with your doctor if your pain is severe or does not improve with rest, stretching, and a cold compress after several weeks. Your doctor may recommend surgery, physical therapy, over-the-counter pain medicine, or rest, depending on the extent of your injury.

Nova Health Partners with Stitches Acute Care

Nova Health expands to South Eastern Washington
Expands Service Capabilities to Rural Communities in Wyoming and Colorado

Eugene, OR – January 5, 2021 – Nova Health, a provider of high-quality, convenient primary and urgent care services in the Western United States, has announced that it has acquired Stitches Acute Care, a healthcare organization offering urgent care, occupational medicine, X-ray, and laboratory services in Wyoming and Colorado.

According to Nova Health Chief Executive Officer Jim Ashby, the acquisition expands Nova’s growing footprint for urgent and primary care services into two new states in line with its strategy to reach more markets in the Western United States.

“Over the past two years, we have pursued strategic partnerships with established, quality care providers that share our passion for collaborative team environments, compassionate patient care, and convenient medical access particularly in smaller, underserved communities,” said Ashby. “The leadership, medical providers, and staff members of Stitches Acute Care share our vision for convenient access and our patient-centric approach to care delivery. We are confident that this partnership will strengthen both organizations; and more importantly, ensure ongoing, quality care for patients in Wyoming and Northern Colorado.

“We are pleased to be part of the Nova Health family,” said Dan Surdam, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Stitches Acute Care. “For a growing organization such as Nova Health, that has earned such an outstanding reputation for quality care, to recognize our people and our operations for strategic alignment represents a validation of years of community commitment and passionate dedication. We are confident that our patients and our employees will enjoy the benefits that come from a larger, strengthened healthcare organization while maintaining the connection with our communities specific needs, which they have come to rely upon for immediate, acute care services.”