News | St. Thomas Medical Group
flu nashville

How to Stay Healthy Through Nashville’s Flu Season

As winter weather continues, so do the aches, coughs, and chills. You’ve probably read the headlines about this year’s specific strain of influenza being the most widespread since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began its current surveillance system 13 years ago. In fact, the flu hospitalization rate is at the highest number ever recorded at this point in the season.

Fortunately, despite the scary headlines, there are steps you can actively take to stay healthy this flu season. Even if you get sick with flu symptoms, our Nashville doctors are here to make sure you get the medical care you need to return to life as normal.

Flu Prevention Techniques You Can Practice Today

By following these tips, you can minimize your risk of getting the flu. Of course, there is no fool-proof way to completely slow or stop the spread of the flu, but we encourage you to take the following actions to protect yourself and others.

  1. Get vaccinated! You might be wondering, “Is it too late to get a flu shot this season?” While getting a vaccine is better earlier in the season, there are still a few weeks to go and vaccination could provide some benefit. Even if this year’s flu vaccine isn’t the best match, it can help reduce the severity of the flu and minimize downtime if you do get sick. 
  2. Practice healthy hygiene and good cleaning habits. One of the best ways to avoid the flu is to regularly wash your hands, especially before eating. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds, rubbing in circles, cleaning between your fingers, and scrubbing under your nails. Also take the time to regularly clean and disinfect surfaces that may be contaminated. Focus on areas that are touched frequently such as countertops, door knobs, faucets, and even your cell phone!
  3. Avoid close contact with sick people. Families are especially at risk for spreading the flu between family members. While it is important to care for each other, it is equally important to limit contact as much as possible. It can be difficult to avoid someone with the flu if you’re the one taking care of them, but if possible, try to give them their own room for sleeping and recovery. 
  4. Exercise and sleep. Getting the recommended amount of sleep is one of the best things you can do for your immune system. When your body is well rested, it can help aid you in flu prevention. Regular exercise can also help boost your body’s defenses.
  5. See your primary care physician. With the exception of emergency warning signs or complications, most patients do not need to go to the Emergency Room to care for the flu. If you get sick with flu-like symptoms but have a non-emergency illness, see your primary care doctor instead. Going to the ER can expose you to others who have it, increasing the likelihood of infection.

When to Seek Medical Attention

The good news is that the majority of symptoms associated with the flu typically last about a week and will subside with home treatment. However, the flu can lead to serious complications that require medical attention. If you experience difficulty breathing, chest or stomach pain, dizziness or lightheadedness, or severe vomiting, you should call your doctor. These red flags are universal for both adults and children.

At St. Thomas Medical Group, we know how important flu prevention is for your quality of life. If you get flu-like symptoms, we’re also here to help you get healthy as quickly as possible. Whether you’re a new or returning patient, you can make an appointment online today or call us at +1 (615) 297-2700.

what is fibromyalgia

What Is Fibromyalgia? How a Rheumatologist Can Help

Do you experience widespread musculoskeletal pain? Do you often experience extreme fatigue, problems sleeping, cognitive disturbances, or mood disorders?

If you answered “Yes” to these questions, you might have fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a common cause of widespread musculoskeletal pain, affecting connective tissues, including muscles, ligaments, and tendons. People with fibromyalgia often experience chronic and persistent pain that is usually described as a deep muscular ache with associated soreness, stiffness, burning, and throbbing sensations. The pain may be confined to specific areas, often the neck and shoulders, early in the course of the disease. Multiple muscle groups may eventually become involved as the disease progresses, leading to many painful areas caused by slight pressures called “tender points.” There are no specific laboratory tests or imaging studies used to diagnosis fibromyalgia, so doctors will generally make this diagnosis based upon a thorough medical history, a complete physical exam, and blood tests, which are generally used to exclude other conditions with similar symptoms.

Do I Have Fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, though it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and emotional factors. It is estimated that approximately 2-4 percent of the general population has fibromyalgia, and the chance of developing this disease is increased eightfold in family members of a person with fibromyalgia compared to the general population. Similar genetic factors are noted in people with a history of irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and migraines.

Fibromyalgia is the most common cause of generalized, musculoskeletal pain in women between the ages of 20 and 55 years and is six times more prevalent in women. It is characterized by multiple symptoms, including:

  • Widespread musculoskeletal pain with extensive tenderness to touch and pressure affecting muscles, joints, ligaments and even the skin
  • Severe fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping or waking up with diffuse body stiffness and feeling unrefreshed
  • Poor memory, migraines/headaches, or poor attention
  • Pelvic pain
  • Overactive bladder
  • Temporomandibular disorder

Fortunately, while there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, there are multiple modalities that can be used in a stepwise approach to reduce the most prevalent symptoms. A combination of effective treatments consisting of both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic therapies, including physical therapy, can help patients feel better and improve overall health. Our Nashville rheumatologists can help diagnose patients suffering from fibromyalgia.

How can a Rheumatologist help?

Rheumatologists are physicians specializing in musculoskeletal and immune diseases such as osteoarthritis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain, tendonitis, and lupus. While everyone experiences occasional muscle and joint pains, long term muscle and joint pain that does not improve with rest may need further evaluation.

Because fibromyalgia is complex in nature and difficult to diagnose, a rheumatologist will perform a complete medical history and a full physical exam. A physical exam can help reveal signs of inflammation throughout the body’s joints and musculoskeletal system.

Treatment and management for fibromyalgia

The best overall treatment for fibromyalgia is a multidisciplinary, individualized approach directed at reducing the major symptoms of the disorder, including chronic widespread pain, fatigue, insomnia, and cognitive dysfunction. No single treatment modality works for all symptoms, so each treatment plan is individualized for each patient, consisting of both medication management and multiple self-care physical therapy measures.

  • Medications might include Duloxetine (Cymbalta), Milnacipran (Savella), or Pregabalin (Lyrica). Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol or ibuprofen can help provide some comfort from the pain. However, narcotics and opioids are not advised, as patients can develop long-term dependence on the drugs and generally do not achieve the desired pain relief.
  • Physical therapy exercises and other nonpharmacologic interventions can form the general backbone of a pain reduction strategy. Strengthening exercises have been shown to help improve the overall musculoskeletal system while improving patient’s quality of life. Swimming and water-based exercises have been found to be particularly helpful because of minimal surface impact compared to land-based exercise.

Self-care has been found to be the most important aspect in keeping fibromyalgia controlled and consists of several main points:

-Regular exercise is important for reconditioning and improving your functional capacity, even though it might initially cause increases in general muscle pain. As your body strengthens and your exercise routine improves, positive results will quickly follow. Consulting a physical therapist can help expedite this process.

-Stress has been proven to be one of the leading causes of fibromyalgia and needs to be reduced as much as possible. In order to reduce stress, following stress management techniques such as meditation and deep breathing exercises are recommended. Even visiting a psychotherapist can provide added benefits.

-Sufficient sleep and rest is essential in keeping fibromyalgia from worsening. It is imperative to follow a well-planned sleep schedule consisting of appropriate sleep hygiene techniques and habits. Common sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome may also require intervention.

-Consuming healthy foods regularly can help with symptoms. A varied diet high in vegetables and low in saturated fats can help you feel better and prevent worsening exacerbations of fibromyalgia. Caffeine, as well as salt and sugar, should be consumed in moderation.

Our Nashville Rheumatologists

At St. Thomas Medical Group, our rheumatologists treat patients in Nashville, Gallatin, Brentwood, and the surrounding areas. Dr. Poonam Somai has been practicing at Saint Thomas Medical Group since 2009 and specializes in ultrasound guided injections of the joint, tendon, and bursa. Dr. Leslie Cuevas moved to Nashville in 2002 and has a special interest in treating patients with fibromyalgia.

Preparing for Your Appointment

Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose. Your physician will want to rule out other causes such as arthritis and similar conditions, which is why an appointment with a rheumatologist may be advised. Prior to your appointment, keep a detailed list of your symptoms. Be descriptive about past medical problems as well as medical problems of parents or siblings. Please bring all medications and dietary supplements to your appointment.

It can also be helpful to keep a written list of questions you want to ask your doctor.

With the correct medical help and guidance, patients can lead much happier and healthier lives. St. Thomas Medical Group has excellent staff specializing in rheumatology in Nashville, TN. Take your first step and make an appointment by calling +1 (615) 964-5823.

what causes allergies in Nashville?

What Causes Allergies in Nashville? ENT Doctors Weigh In…

While Nashvillians tend to be a good-natured bunch, there are three things we like to complain about: traffic, shopping for a home (no complaints from the sellers!), and allergies.

If you recently moved to Nashville and find yourself wondering, “Were my allergies this bad before I came here?” you may be relieved to know you’re not mistaken. Wherever you came from, the allergies probably weren’t as bad they are here in Nashville! (Okay, maybe “relief” isn’t the right emotion – but, at least you’re right, right?)

Nashville Ranks in the Top 30 for Allergies

Every season, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) releases a report on the Allergy Capitals of the U.S. In Spring 2016, Nashville ranked at #29, pushed further down the list from its previous ranking at #23. (If it makes you feel any better, Memphis ranked #2 and consistently appears at the top of allergy and asthma lists.)

In the Fall 2016 allergy season, Nashville ranked #27 (down from #20).

What Causes Allergies in Nashville?

Springtime brings a variety of blooming flowers and budding trees, which create the perfect storm for pollen-sensitive residents. With long growing seasons and a geography that causes air to “sit” over the Middle Tennessee region for extended periods, pollens and other irritants can accumulate in the area, irritating sinuses for weeks or months on end.

In the fall, ragweed (“hay fever”) can cause those infamous symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, congestion, headache, and irritation of the throat and eyes. Of course, our homes can also act as host to a variety of allergens, from dust, mold, and mites to pet dander.

Allergy Testing Methods

Nashville ENT specialists at St. Thomas Medical Group have several methods for screening allergies.

    • Skin Prick Testing: The most common form of testing, the skin prick method involves creating several pricks on the skin with droplets of various allergens. After 20 minutes, test results can be read. Results may prompt further testing. (See below.)
    • Intradermal Dilutional Testing (IDT): Using this method, the healthcare provider injects small amounts of allergens under the skin of the upper arm. The test can take three hours.
    • Modified RAST (mRAST): This blood test measures the amount of ImmunoglobinE (IgE) specific to each allergen. IgE is an antibody the immune system produces in reaction to an allergen. These antibodies are what cause the symptoms you have observed as an “allergic reaction.” It can take two to three weeks to receive results from the lab.

Treatments for Nashville Allergies

There are several methods that may be recommended to you for managing allergy symptoms. These may include:

    • Medication Therapy: Antihistamines, nasal sprays and other drugs can be helpful in many cases for reducing allergy symptoms. Many of these drugs are available over the counter without a prescription.
    • Desensitizing Immunotherapy (IT): Also known as “allergy injections,” immunotherapy is an option for some patients. Injections may be done weekly in a physician’s office; some immunotherapy drugs are taken orally under the tongue twice a week at home.
    • Avoidance Therapy: As you may guess, this therapy is based on strategically eliminating or reducing exposure to known allergens. Your ENT specialist may be able to recommend air filters, cleaning methods, household modifications, and lifestyle changes that can help you reduce exposure to known allergens.
Find a Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor In Nashville, TN

St. Thomas Medical Group is home to three ENT specialists. Meet:

Mitchell K Schwaber, M.D.
Steven Enrich, M.D.
Matthew Speyer, M.D.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with a Nashville ear, nose and throat specialist at St. Thomas Medical Group, call +1 (615) 297-2700.