Healing Hyperpigmentation

If you are noticing areas of
darkening on your skin or nails,
you may be suffering from...

read more

Rejuvenate, Don't Hibernate!

If you've been considering a
chemical peel or similar skin
treatment, don't wait for the sunny...

read more

What the Affordable Care
Act Means to You

October 1, 2013, marked an important
step forward toward meaningful...

read more

Recognize When Your
Joints Need Help

Chances are you've experienced
some sort of ache, pain or soreness...

read more

How to Spot Thyroid Trouble

As women age, we tend to experience
a myriad of benign yet often annoying
changes in our bodies...

read more


Healing Hyperpigmentation

By Voula Beishline, Bellus Spa of Folsom


If you are noticing areas of darkening on your skin or nails, you may be suffering from a condition called hyperpigmentation. People with darker skin tones and Asian, Mediterranean or African heritage are more prone to hyperpigmentation, especially when they experience excessive sun exposure, but the condition can affect anyone. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by sun damage, inflammation or other skin injuries, including severe acne.

Many forms of hyperpigmentation are caused by an excess production of melanin. Melanin is produced by melanocytes at the lower layer of the epidermis, or skin. Melanin is a class of pigment responsible for producing color in the body in places such as the eyes, skin, and hair. As the body ages, melanocyte distribution becomes less diffuse and the body does not do as good of a job at regulating it. UV light stimulates melanocyte activity, contributing to hyperpigmentation.

Another form of hyperpigmentation is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. These are dark and discolored spots that appear on your skin following acne that has healed.

When healing hyperpigmentation, success largely depends on the cause of the discoloration. Was it due to UV exposure? Hormones? Trauma or acne? Stress? Hyperpigmentation induced by UV rays or injury tend to respond well to treatment if caught early, while Melasma and other hormonal influences are more challenging to tackle.

Hyperpigmentation treatment requires three main actions:

Exfoliation: At home, you can exfoliate skin daily with a gentle resurfacer or treat it three times a week with a stronger product. Look for highly concentrated ingredients such as Phytic Acid, Salicylic Acid, enzymes and Lactic Acid at 5% or greater. For quicker results, try a series of chemical peels or professional exfoliation treatments to help remove existing melanin and improve the penetration of melanin controlling actives. Galvanic current or micro current can also help penetrate ingredients deeper into the skin.

Serums: A brightening, melanin-controlling serum under a moisturizer morning and night can help in the treatment of hyperpigmentation. To see optimum results, use the serum a minimum of 10 weeks. Ingredients like Oligopeptide-34, Licorice, Zinc Glycinate, Niacinamide and Vitamin C all help to effect the production of pigment and slow over-active glands.

UV Protection: Using a minimum SPF30 every single day is crucial while treating hyperpigmentation. You should reapply every two hours while outdoors or near windows. A wide brim hat and sunglasses are recommended as well for added protection.

For help with your skin care needs, contact Bellus Spa in Folsom. Mention that you are a Care Begins With Me member to receive a discount!

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Recognize When Your Joints Need Help

By Stephen Howell, MD


Chances are you've experienced some sort of ache, pain or soreness in your joints at one time or another. But how do you know when that nagging discomfort is reason to go to the doctor? And at what point does that chronic pain warrant surgery? Here are a few things to keep in mind if you're dealing with joint pain.

First, it is important to note that any ongoing pain is worth mentioning to your doctor. Particularly, if the pain does not resolve with rest, ice and over the counter anti-inflammatory medication, you should have the injury examined. Do not "tough it out" if the discomfort is affecting your quality of life - there are treatment options available.

If your joint pain has progressed to the point where you are wondering if you may need a hip or knee replacement, here are a few criteria to consider:

  • Pain and Stiffness: Most people who need joint replacement surgery have such pain and/or stiffness that simple tasks like walking or climbing the stairs is difficult. This pain is chronic and is typically present for several months.

  • Poor Quality of Life: Once your pain and/or lack of mobility begin to affect your daily life, it is time to consider surgical solutions. Chronic joint pain can also affect one's mood and even lead to depression. If the pain is limiting what you can do and preventing you from participating in activities that were previously part of your normal life, then you need to talk to your doctor about your options.

  • Joint Damage: Sometimes osteoarthritis or other conditions will progress to the point where the actual joint itself is damaged. This can be seen through x-rays or other imaging and is a sign that the joint may need to be replaced.

  • Treatment Failure: If you and your physician have tried other, less-invasive treatments like medications or injections and yet your pain continues, this can be a sign that a joint replacement may be necessary.

  • Deformity: If your knee arthritis has bowed your or if your knee causes you to limp because your knee won't straighten or is swollen, then joint replacement is on option that you might discuss with your physician and orthopedic surgeon.

If your doctor does recommend joint replacement surgery, know that this procedure is becoming increasingly common. More than 500,000 knee and 250000 hip replacements are performed in the US every year. In the past each procedure has had a lengthy post-operative recovery, however new technology has shortened the length of stay, speeded up recovery, and improved patient-reported satisfaction and function.

In the field of total knee replacement, one major improvement is new method called "kinematic alignment." Dr. Stephen Howell of Methodist Hospital designed this method to reduce the number of patients that report problems of stiffness, instability and pain after knee replacement surgery. In this new technique, the total knee replacement is kinematically aligned to the patient's own anatomy, ensuring a better fit. Kinematic alignment has enabled a quicker recovery, fewer complications, shorter length of stay, and fewer readmissions with greater satisfaction and function, and better long-term survivorship than other methods of knee replacement.

If you'd like to learn more about Dr. Howell's custom-fit kinematically aligned knee, visit his website or visit Dignity Health's Orthopedics website to learn about other procedures and upcoming community events.

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Rejuvenate, Don't Hibernate!

By Rosalee Shorter, PA, Mercy Medical Group


If you've been considering a chemical peel or similar skin treatment, don't wait for the sunny days of spring - book yourself an appointment now! Although our instincts may tell us to protect and preserve our skin during the harsh months of winter, the reverse is actually true: Winter time is the perfect time to rejuvenate your skin. While it may feel like our facial skin is destined to be dry and dull while it is cold outside, that is not the case. You can help your skin survive - and even thrive! - during winter with a simple treatment or two.

To understand why winter is an ideal time for skin treatments, first we need to understand the state of our skin right now. During the summer months, sun takes its toll. Hours spent outdoors accelerates the aging process in your skin, creating more wrinkles and dulling the skin's surface. Then, the cold, dry air of fall hits and your skin is really suffering. Fast forward to January and February, and suddenly it is windy and cold outside and hot and dry inside (thanks to our heating systems). The constant transitioning between outdoor cold and indoor heat is challenging, even for the healthiest of skin. (Rosacea and eczema also tend to flare up during winter months and can best be treated through skin care products targeted for those conditions. Talk to your doctor or aesthetician for recommendations.)

While many people suffer from drying and cracking during winter months, others with oily skin types will experience breakouts because the dryness stimulates excess oil production. A great way to combat these problems is through a chemical peel. Not only will your skin benefit from this treatment, but because there is less sunlight during these months the UV levels are also lower which means your skin can repair itself quicker and recovery from the peel will be faster.

A chemical peel works by increasing exfoliation and skin hydration - both processes that are critical during winter. During a peel, a chemical compound - often comprised of natural elements like lactic acid or salicylic acid - is applied to the skin which caused the targeted layer of skin to peel away. This promotes younger, fresh skin to grow, which revitalizes your skin's appearance. Despite the name, the procedure is not painful and is performed in your aesthetician's office.

Chemical peels can be performed on the face, neck, chest, arms, hands and/or the back. Some of the benefits of a chemical peel are:

  • Reduce the appearance of sun damage

  • Minimizing mild scarring

  • Diminishing the appearance of wrinkles

  • Improving blotchy, irregular skin discolorations

  • Treating mild acne

  • Reducing oily skin

So this winter, don't try to save your skin through hibernation - kick start it with rejuvenation!

For more information on winter-time skin treatments, visit the Mercy Medical Group Plastic Surgery Center.

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How to Spot Thyroid Trouble

By Deborah Plante, MD


January is National Thyroid Awareness Month - a great time to make sure your thyroid is healthy and functioning well.

As women age, we tend to experience a myriad of benign yet often annoying changes in our bodies - we gain a few pounds, we have trouble sleeping, our moods swing more wildly... Some of these changes may be related to lifestyle or menopause. But sometimes these seemingly harmless symptoms can be a sign of a problem with your thyroid.

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland located just above the Adam's apple in the neck. The thyroid regulates several bodily functions, including your body's temperature, metabolism and heartbeat. While most thyroids never cause a problem, some do - and for women over the age of 35 the risk of a malfunctioning thyroid could be as high as 30%. An estimated 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.

The thyroid produces thyroid hormone (TH). When a thyroid is sluggish, it produces too little TH - this is known as hypothyroidism. If the thyroid is too amped up, it produces too much TH - which is known as hyperthyroidism. Many things can cause a thyroid to go haywire, including genetics, pregnancy, an autoimmune problem, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or environmental toxins.

Because the thyroid affects so many functions throughout the body, recognizing the signs of a thyroid problem can be challenging. One of the first signs may be unusual fatigue. Feeling exhausted, despite a full night's sleep, is a clue that your thyroid may be underactive. Hypothyroidism can also cause drop in serotonin, leaving you feeling sad, lethargic and generally "down in the dumps." Exhaustion and depression - while linked to many conditions - are often the first clues that you are suffering from hypothyroidism.

Conversely, if your thyroid is overactive, you may feel unusually jittery and anxious. Because hyperthyroidism kicks your metabolism into overdrive, it can cause you to feel like you can't relax. This hyper feeling can also involve an unusually fast heartbeat or heart palpitations or fluttery feelings in the chest or neck. Hyperthyroidism can also increase your appetite, although because your metabolism is increased you likely will not gain weight despite taking in more calories. As people with hyperthyroidism age, it can increase their risk of osteoporosis and abnormal heart rhythms.

Other signs that you may be living with a thyroid disorder:

  • Difficulty concentrating or feel forgetful or "foggy"

  • Decreased libido

  • Dry skin

  • Changes in bowel movements (constipation or diarrhea)

  • Menstrual irregularities

  • Pain, tingling or numbness in extremities

  • High blood pressure or high cholesterol

  • Feeling too hot or too cold

  • Changes in voice (hoarseness) or changes in your neck

  • Changes in sleep habits

  • Changes in weight

  • Thinning hair or losing hair

  • Difficulty getting pregnant

If you believe your thyroid may be malfunctioning, talk to your doctor about having your thyroid tested. Screening for thyroid dysfunction can be done with a simple blood test.

If you need help finding a physician, visit the Dignity Health physician finder to locate a doctor near you. For more information on Dr. Plante and how to contact her office, visit the Mercy Medical Group website.

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What the Affordable Care Act Means to You


October 1, 2013, marked an important step forward toward meaningful healthcare reform for our country. That is when Open Enrollment began for individual and family health insurance through the health exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Dignity Health recognizes the impact this legislation will have on the patients we serve and so we aspire to be a leader in implementing the ACA. We are working to ensure that our patients learn about their eligibility options through the exchanges. We also want to make sure that our patients understand which plans will give them access to the Dignity Health facilities and physicians they currently trust with their medical care.

Below are a few common questions we've heard from our patients:

What is a Health Insurance Exchange or Marketplace?
A Health Insurance Marketplace or Exchange is a new way that Americans can compare and shop for health insurance in their state. You can sign up now through March 31. You may even be able to get help paying for your new insurance. Coverage will begin depending on when you enroll. In California the Health Insurance Exchange is run by the state.

How can I enroll?
Enrollment is now open. You can sign up online at dignityhealth.org/enroll or by calling 1-855-233-0688.

When does the new health coverage begin?
Coverage through the Exchanges began on January 1, 2014, if you enrolled by December 15, 2013. If you sign up now, coverage will begin the first of the following month as long as you have enrolled by the 15th of the previous month.

Who is eligible for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplaces?
You must live in the U.S. You must be a U.S. citizen or national, or a lawful resident. Even if you don't qualify because you are not a U.S. citizen, other members of your family might be eligible for coverage. There is no penalty for applying, and your information will not be used for any purpose other than determining if you and your family members qualify for health coverage.

Also, health plans available through the Health Insurance Marketplace aren't the only new form of coverage available. Even if you cannot afford to purchase insurance through the Exchanges or Marketplaces, you may still qualify for free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Even now, many Americans who qualify for these programs are not currently enrolled.

How much will it cost to enroll?
It is free to apply and learn what coverage options you qualify for, what they will cost, and what financial help you can receive. Once you know your options, you can decide what health insurance plan is best for you and your budget.

How much financial help can I get with the cost of coverage?
If you enroll with a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may be eligible for financial assistance. The amount of money you would have to pay each month depends on your income. The same application that will be used to determine what coverage options you qualify for will also tell you how much financial help you can get.

What is Medicaid, how is it changing under the new law, and how does that affect my insurance choices?
Medicaid is a health coverage program that exists in every state. In California the program is called Medi-Cal. States set the rules about who can enroll in Medicaid. In the past, coverage has been mostly limited to low-income children, their parents, pregnant women, and people with disabilities. But starting in January 2014, many states are expanding coverage under Medicaid and allowing more people to enroll.

The same application will be used to determine your eligibility for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).The same application will help every member of the household determine what coverage and financial assistance they are eligible to receive.

To learn more about how the Affordable Care Act affects you, attend one of these upcoming educational events:

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 4 - 7 p.m.
Clunie Center at McClinley Park
601 Alhambra Boulevard, Sacramento, CA 95816

Saturday, January 25, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
South Sacramento Christian Center
7710 Stockton Boulevard, Sacramento, CA, 95823

For more information on your health insurance options, visit dignityhealth.org/enroll or call 1-855-233-0688.

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