Family Initiative hosts free autism screenings at Cape Coral campus

Family Initiative hosts free autism screenings at Cape Coral campus

Family Initiative offers free autism screenings at its Cape Coral campus on the third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon. The appointment-based screenings, designed for children through age three, are administered by Family Initiative’s expert clinicians.

Family Initiative is a nonprofit that utilizes evidence-based services, innovative programs, applied training and individualized support plans to empower families and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and those in the child welfare system.

In the first several years of life, there are milestones that children should reach in terms of how they interact, learn, speak and act. A delay in certain areas of a child’s innate progression could be a sign of developmental issues, including autism.

Autism can be detected as early as 18 months or younger, but children are often not diagnosed until much later in life. Early detection of ASD allows more time for children and families to learn how to overcome behavioral, social and developmental challenges.

An ASD diagnosis cannot be measured by medical testing, such as a blood test, but rather by a series of testing executed by experienced physicians. Family Initiative’s free autism screenings are conducted by expert clinicians who administer a detailed screening to determine if a child needs further evaluation. The clinicians do not issue an official diagnosis but recommend trusted physicians for families to receive a formal identification.

Family Initiative’s upcoming autism screening date is Saturday, April 16, located at 734 SW 4th Street in Cape Coral.

To register for a free autism screening, email

Symptoms, causes and treatment options for TMJ disorder

Symptoms, causes and treatment options for TMJ disorder

Headaches, ear pain or trouble swallowing? You might have a TMJ disorder

By Dr. Virginia Reed

The human jaw is like a sliding hinge that goes up and down, left and right.

When our jaw is working properly, we don’t even think about it while eating, talking or drinking. When it’s not working correctly, though, the pain can be unbearable and present itself in the form of headaches, ear pain, popping or clicking sensations, difficulty chewing, pain when yawning, trouble swallowing and facial tenderness.

The cause might be a Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder. The TMJ is the joint between the jaw and skull; a TMJ disorder can emerge when there are problems with the joint, jaw muscles and/or nerves.

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) notes that TMJ disorders affect an estimated 10 million Americans at any given time. The NIDCR also notes that women are more likely to develop symptoms than men.

Physical therapists who specialize in the treatment of TMJ disorders focus on improving the quality of movement of the affected joint, as well as teaching patients how to focus on relaxation, stretching and releasing tight muscles and scar tissue that cause pain or discomfort. Patients also can learn techniques to regain normal jaw movements.

It’s important to know the symptoms, causes and treatment options for TMJ disorders.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

The symptoms of TMJ disorders can vary in number and intensity. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, common symptoms include:

  • Jaw pain or fatigue
  • Temporomandibular Joint pain
  • Ear pain or ringing of the ear (tinnitus)
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Locking jaw joints
  • Jaw clicking, locking or popping
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Trouble swallowing or the feeling that something is stuck in the throat

For some, the pain associated with TMJ disorders can be temporary. However, others experience chronic jaw pain for weeks, months or even years.

Causes of TMJ Disorders

One of the primary causes of TMJ disorders is developing instability due to poor jaw posture or neck alignment. These changes can alter the function of the disc of the joint, as well as the pull of muscles that guide a jaw’s movement, thus causing painful grinding and irritation of the joint. Medical professionals no longer attribute TMJ disorders to a single cause. Instead, genetics and natural causes often combine with preventable actions to create jaw pain.

Potential causes include poor posture, teeth grinding, trauma to the jaw or teeth, stress, excessive gum chewing, arthritis and recent surgery.

The Mayo Clinic notes four factors that may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing a TMJ disorder, including having rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, a jaw injury, chronic teeth grinding or clenching, and connective tissue diseases such as Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder.

Why Choose Physical Therapy to Treat TMJ Disorders

Physical therapists are certified to evaluate and treat TMJ disorders without the use of prescription medications. They start with a comprehensive exam to determine the root cause of a problem, then create a personalized plan to relieve pain and restore natural jaw movements.

The benefits of physical therapy’s manual approach to treating TMJ disorders include increasing range of motion and postural awareness, decreasing pain and muscle guarding, restoring joint movement around a normal physiological axis and preventing unnecessary drug use while providing treatment.

Have you considered orthopedic rehabilitation to improve your jaw function? If pain or discomfort lasts more than a few days, it might be time to see a physical therapist.

About the Author

Dr. Virginia Reed is a physical therapist and Southwest Florida regional director for FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, which has more than 430 locations in 45 states. For more information, please visit

Lee County Parks & Recreation to host 2022 Lee County Senior Games

Lee County Parks & Recreation to host 2022 Lee County Senior Games

Lee County Parks & Recreation welcomes all senior athletes to participate in the 2022 Lee County Senior Games – “Fitness Matters.”

Registration is open now for the games, which feature social, recreational and competitive activities.

The games will be held Jan. 28 through March 19, 2022, with action in nine sports in various locations throughout the county.

The Florida Games Series Qualifier Events include:

  • Table Tennis
  • Bag Toss
  • Archery
  • Bowling
  • Pickleball
  • Billiards
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • 5K Run

Register at Registration is $15 per event with online registration and $20 per event with mail-in registration. 

Participants must be 50 years or older by Dec. 31, 2022, and qualifying event top finishers will be eligible to compete at the state level in the 2022 Florida Senior Games. Participants will receive one t-shirt that will be distributed at event site. Medals will be presented to the first, second, and third-place finishers in each event.

For event schedules and more information about Lee County Senior Games, visit

For more information about Lee County Parks & Recreation locations, amenities and other special events, visit, call 239-533-7275 or email

So, you realize you need to get better sleep?

So, you realize you need to get better sleep?

By Dr. Stan Headley, natural health consultant for Cypress Pharmacy

Restless nights. Tossing and turning. Waking up exhausted. Frankly, we just aren’t getting enough quality sleep these days. Spoiler alert: You’re not alone.

In fact, this affects one in three adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 70 million Americans suffer from some form of diagnosed sleep disorder. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend people between the ages of 18 to 60 should sleep a minimum of seven hours each night to promote optimal health and well-being.

Hitting snooze

Lack of sleep is more than a slight inconvenience of temporary brain fog. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. It can have unwanted side effects like daytime fatigue, depression, and anxiety. Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity.

So, what exactly happens when you sleep? The brain cycles repeatedly through various stages of sleep.  Rapid-eye movement, or REM, sleep is the deepest stage of slumber when we tend to dream. On average, studies show healthy adults go through three to five REM cycles per night.

Countless factors can have an impact on your quality and length of sleep each night, including stress, caffeine and alcohol, physical and mental health conditions, and certain medications. Everything from what you eat to how much you exercise in a day can cause a positive or negative effect on your sleep. In many cases, people will turn to natural sleep aids and other effective ways to promote better sleep.

Natural sleep aids

Melatonin has become a popular natural sleep aid, with 3 million Americans using them in 2012, according to the CDC. However, dosage can be tricky and can often wear off before getting a full night’s sleep. While melatonin is still popular option for falling asleep, there are several other natural alternatives that can provide much better results without the potential for side effects.

For many people who face stress during the day, higher cortisol levels can interfere with the ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. L-theanine, an amino acid that down-regulates cortisol, can help effectively set the stage for improved sleep at bedtime when taken during the day.

For those who use a daytime product to help control elevated cortisol levels, magnesium can be a quality supplement to help restore the natural rhythm. Magnesium is highly recommended for anyone who has sleep issues because it acts as a calmative and helps our muscles relax, helping us fall asleep more easily.

Vitamins B12 and D3 have also been found to support better sleep. While vitamin B12 is well-known to generate energy in the body, people with B12 deficiencies can experience irregular sleep patterns and a lack of sleep. The intake of B12 can increase melatonin production and help regulate sleep patterns.

Vitamin D3 can also help support sleep cycles and your quality of sleep. Current research shows there’s a direct correlation between sleep disturbance and low levels of vitamin D.

Full-spectrum, pharmaceutical-grade CBD, or cannabidiol, oil is another natural option for achieving quality sleep. Current studies suggest CBD may help with falling asleep and staying asleep, according to Harvard Medical School. CBD-infused oil drops, administered under the tongue, appear to enter the bloodstream faster, binding to the targeted brain receptors through our body’s endocannabinoid system to induce REM sleep.

Combinations of natural sleep-inducing ingredients can also promote soothing and restful sleep. Blended formulas may include key ingredients such as valerian root, GABA, 5-HTP, chamomile, hops, and passionflower to support healthy circadian rhythms for a peaceful night of sleep.

Better habits at bedtime

Sleep accounts for nearly one-third of the human lifespan. Melatonin, our natural sleep hormone, increases in the body about two hours before bedtime, which can be a good time to start your nightly bedtime routine.

If you’re looking to make every hour count, there are several ways to improve your sleep health through lifestyle changes, like limiting amount and timing of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol, limiting screentime prior to bedtime, and increasing exercise including cardio, strength training, and yoga. Even the food and drinks we consume can help improve sleep, including complex carbs, chamomile, ginger, peppermint, and warm milk.

Ask your pharmacist or health care professional if the medications you are taking may be making it difficult to fall asleep. Many prescription medications, even medications prescribed for insomnia, can block the body’s natural production of melatonin.

About the Author

Natural Health Consultant Dr. Stan Headley for Cypress Pharmacy is recognized as a leading authority in functional and natural wellness. To support patients with the nutrients needed to promote healthier living, Headley provides nutritional and lifestyle counseling as well as supplement recommendations for those affected by conditions like poor sleep. Headley does not diagnose or treat disease but educates customers about lifestyle and behavioral changes that can promote optimal health. For more information, call 239-481-7322 or visit

Vitamins for healthy vision

Vitamins for healthy vision

By Dr. Yasaira Rodriguez, a board-certified ophthalmologist for Elmquist Eye Group

A proper diet nourishes the whole body, aiding and maintaining healthy vision. However, many people struggle to get the nutrients they need through diet alone. While you cannot replace healthy eating habits, multivitamins and supplements may make up for nutritional deficiencies that could jeopardize your eye health.   

Research shows that adding certain nutrients to your daily diet can reduce the risk of eye diseases and other degenerative conditions.

A 2019 study by University of Buffalo, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, shows an unhealthy diet increases threefold the likelihood of developing late-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss among adults over 60; AMD causes the slow deterioration of central vision, making it difficult for those with the disease to conduct daily tasks such as driving, reading and recognizing faces.

But what nutrients are best for your eye health? In such a saturated market, finding the right vitamins and supplements can be overwhelming. Fortunately, decades of research have clarified the options.

In 1990 and 2006, The National Eye Institute sponsored two clinical trials, the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and AREDS2, which found that certain supplements can help delay the progression of AMD. The AREDS study evaluated the use of a high-dose combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene—a pigment that helps produce Vitamin A, and zinc for patients with varying degrees of macular degeneration.

Of the study’s participants, those at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25%. AREDS2 found that including the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin without beta-carotene offered even better protection against AMD.

In addition to the AREDS2 formula for AMD, researchers have found that certain dietary supplements can offer protection from several other eye conditions:

Vitamin A

Vitamin A maintains corneal health and improves low-light vision.

A deficiency in vitamin A can cause dry eyes, impaired night vision and even blindness.

Vitamin C

Studies have shown that the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E may help delay the progression of cataracts.

Cataracts, which appear as milky blue clouds on the surface of the eye, are another leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D may help protect against dry eye syndrome and prevent uveitis, an inflammation of the eye’s middle layer.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These fatty acids, commonly sourced from fish, have been found to treat and reduce the risk of dry eye.

According to a European study published in 2008, omega-3 fatty acids could also help prevent neovascular (wet) macular degeneration.


Zinc plays an important role in helping the body absorb Vitamin A, and may also protect the eyes against night blindness.


Although vitamins and supplements are available over the counter, a medical professional can help evaluate what’s right for your body. Consult your ophthalmologist and primary care physician to determine what approach is best for you, especially if you’re taking other medications. Certain vitamins can interfere with prescription drug efficacy, and vice versa.

Regular eye exams are also critical to maintaining eye health, even if there are no noticeable vision problems. A comprehensive eye exam provides your eye doctor the opportunity to monitor, detect and treat developing eye conditions before permanent damage occurs. With AMD and many other eye conditions, symptoms may not become evident until the disease has progressed to the point of causing vision loss. Your eye doctor can evaluate your vision and help develop a plan of action to better preserve the health of your eyes.

About the Author

Dr. Yasaira Rodriguez is a board-certified ophthalmologist at Elmquist Eye Group. With more than 25 years of service to the Southwest Florida community, Elmquist Eye Group provides patients with a range of medical, surgical, cosmetic and emergency eye care services and optical solutions through offices in Fort Myers and Cape Coral. For more information, visit or call 239-936-2020.



Lee Health recently initiated a new partnership with DispatchHealth, a leading provider of in-home medical care.

Through the partnership, patients in Southwest Florida have a convenient way to receive medical care in the comfort of their homes.

DispatchHealth provides in-home medical care for a wide range of common to complex injuries and illnesses, including viral infections, COPD exacerbations, congestive heart failure and more. 

Expertly trained medical teams typically arrive at the patient’s home within a few hours of being requested, equipped with the necessary tools and treatments, including on-site diagnostics. 

No referral is needed for patients to request care via phone or by visiting DispatchHealth’s mobile app or website.

Pin It on Pinterest