Irritable Bowel Syndrome: 101

Get the basics on this uncomfortable condition.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not a fun experience. It can disrupt your work, make you hesitant to attend social gatherings, and even make your home life strained. Whether your doctor suggested that you may have IBS, or you're just curious about the condition, here is a quick overview of the issue.

What Is IBS?

This condition is still a little mysterious. No one knows what causes it or why it occurs. It is identified by matching a patient's symptoms of with the most common signs of IBS.

Who Is at Risk?

Some people may be at a higher risk for IBS than others. The condition is most commonly found in those who are:

  • Young – Most patients are under 35 years old, although some may be between 35 and 50.
  • Female – IBS can strike both genders, but women have higher rates.
  • Related to an IBS patient – A possible genetic link has been observed.

What Are the Symptoms?

IBS can present in many different ways, and the symptoms can vary from day to day. Signs to watch out for include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stools covered in blood or mucus
  • Nausea after eating even small meals
  • Bloating and gas

What Treatments Are Available?

There is no cure for IBS, but patients may find relief with several treatment methods. The most effective is usually a change in diet. Eat plenty of fiber and start a food diary to locate your trigger foods. Medication is also available. If IBS is linked to anxiety or depression, a professional counselor may help.

If you've noticed any changes in your digestion, you can find answers with the help of our gastroenterology department. Learn more at our website or receive a free physician referral when you call (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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Foot and Ankle: Show off in Sandals

Don't let any of these common foot problems hold you back this summer!

Warm weather is perfect for flip flops, sandals, and other open-toed shoes. But what if your feet aren't looking their best these days? Many people struggle with foot problems that cause them to stay covered up out of embarrassment. Let's explore some of these issues – and uncover some solutions!


If you have a bump protruding from below your big toe, you may have a bunion. Not only does this look a little off, it can also be very painful to walk on. The longer you put off treatment, the more uncomfortable it will get. In mild cases, you might correct the problem by placing a bunion pad on the affected area and wearing the right shoes. If the problem is more extreme, surgery may be required.

Hammer Toes

If your toe becomes stuck in a bent or curled position, the muscles and ligaments in your feet have likely become unbalanced, resulting in a hammer toe. This can make many shoes painful or difficult to wear. Your doctor may recommend splinting, specific shoes, or shoe inserts to correct the problem. If these solutions aren't producing results, surgery may be your next step.

Toenail Problems

The nails on your feet can also experience painful or unattractive issues, such as ingrown nails or toenail fungus. If you have an ingrown toenail, it is best to let your doctor handle its removal. Improperly cutting the nail yourself can actually make the problem worse. Toenail fungus should also be treated by a doctor. OTC treatments exist, but few patients have success with them. Your doctor can prescribe effective medications or even remove the toenail surgically.

Join us for our next Dine & Discuss event on Thursday, April 17th! We'll be discussing many common foot and ankle problems and their solutions. This is a free seminar, but registration is required. Give us a call at (479) 709-3627 or (877) 709-DOCS to claim your spot!

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Top Reasons to Work at Sparks Health System

Looking for a stable and fulfilling career? Check out the opportunities at Sparks Regional Medical Center!

The medical field is one of the best areas where you can find a career if you value job security, flexible hours, a comfortable income, and work that you find both challenging and rewarding. You can make a difference at Sparks Health System! Whether you are a physician, nurse, physical therapist, medical coder, or administrative worker, here's what you can expect from us.

Work that Matters

If you're currently returning home each evening feeling discouraged or purposeless, it's time for a change. While a hospital setting may seem a little frenzied at times, you will always have the peace of knowing your work is important and life-changing. Your end-of-the-day exhaustion will feel good, not burdensome.

The Latest Technology

Keeping up with cutting-edge technology is a top priority at Sparks Regional. We give our staff the opportunity to work with the best and most efficient machinery in their field. You'll always be excited to arrive at work in the morning!

The Best Insurance Available

Not only does Sparks Regional offer great health insurance, you'll also get dental, vision, disability, and life insurance. Sadly, many of today's employers only offer the bare minimum to their staff members. Our benefits packet shows that we value everyone in the Sparks family. Check out the details of our insurance options.

If you are searching for a job in healthcare, consider working for Sparks Regional Medical Center! You can stop by our website any time to learn more about us and our current opportunities.

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What to Expect from Your First Colonoscopy

When it comes to your first colonoscopy, are your expectations accurate?

There is a lot of dread and nervous energy that surrounds a colonoscopy – a potentially life-saving screening that everyone is recommended to undergo starting at age 50. Fortunately, much of the negative attention colonoscopies receive is undeserved. If you are feeling fearful, read on to discover what you can actually expect when the time comes.

A Proactive Preparation

Here's a little known secret: most patients look back on their colonoscopy to discover that the preparation was the most challenging part of their experience. You may need to make some diet changes in the days before. Your doctor could even request that you take a laxative. While these may not be the most comfortable or convenient preparations, they are certainly not worthy of any fear or dread.

A Quick Procedure

A colonoscopy rarely lasts longer than an hour, and most patients don't feel anything after being sedated or medicated. Some may report mild cramping. During the procedure, your doctor will run a thin tube and camera through the rectum and up to the colon. He may even remove some polyps during the same procedure.

An Easy Recovery

There is a little recovery period needed on the day of your appointment. This is because of the sedatives, not the actual procedure. You should not try to drive yourself home or return to work. By the next morning, you will be feeling like yourself again.

If it's time to schedule your first colonoscopy, we can find you the right doctor. Give our physician referral line a call at (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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Why It’s Important for Your Children to Brush & Floss

Make sure you're instilling good dental habits in your children while they're young.

When your teeth are healthy and strong, you rarely give them a second thought. But what happens the moment you develop an ache? It becomes all you can think about – and if you ever lose an adult tooth, you'll immediately feel that loss whenever you sit down for a meal. How can teeth be protected from these fates? Good dental health begins in childhood. Brushing and flossing are crucial habits that need to be formed in adolescence. Here's why.

Gum Health

While no one likes to have teeth that look dirty or yellowed, the health of your gums often determines whether a child will experience serious dental problems in his future. If teeth are not regularly cleaned, the plaque buildup can cause gum tissue to weaken, creating space for bacteria to reach the roots of the teeth.

Why Flossing?

Have you ever wondered why dentists are so persistent on the need for flossing? The mouth may feel clean after a good brushing, and mouthwash may kill the bacteria in your mouth, but flossing removes those tiny specks of food that find themselves trapped in the spaces between your teeth.  It's best to floss first, then brush all those particles away.

Complications of Weak Teeth and Unhealthy Gums

If children are not diligent in caring for their teeth and gums, they may be putting their future at risk in ways you'd never guess. Some surprising consequences of poor dental care are heart disease or stroke.

You'll always receive the best care and guidance from the pediatric department at Sparks Regional Medical Center. Need a referral for a pediatrician? Give us a call at (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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Heart Disease Warning Signs for Men

Knowing these signs can help men recognize heart disease.

February is American Heart Month, a good time for men to think about their heart health. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death among men. In many cases of sudden death from a heart attack, men did not even realize that they had heart disease.

Some Warning Signs

To help tackle that problem, here are some warning signs that men should know so they can address potential heart problems:

  • Chest pain or discomfort: Chest pain and heart disease are more commonly linked with men than with women. Pain or a feeling of pressure in the chest could be a sign of angina, which indicates the heart is not getting enough oxygen. For men, the pain is often associated with physical activity; the pain eases when the activity stops.
  • Feeling tired: If physical activity that was once easy to do leaves a man unexpectedly tired, it could be a sign of heart disease.
  • Erectile dysfunction: This sexual problem results from poor circulation, and it can indicate that a man has circulatory problems elsewhere.
  • Snoring and sleep apnea: Men are more likely to snore than women, and both snoring and sleep apnea are linked to higher risk of heart disease.

Heart Attack Warning Signs

Whether men have been diagnosed with heart disease or not, they should know common warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the center of the chest—pain or pressure
  • Pain or discomfort in upper portions of the body, such as arms, neck, back, or jaw
  • Dizzy spells
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Risk Factors

Men also need to know that certain health conditions and lifestyle choices are risk factors for developing heart disease. These include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of exercise

At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we’re ready to help anyone who shows signs of heart disease or experiences a heart attack. Our cardiac services feature a range of diagnostic and imaging technologies, cardiac surgery, and rehabilitation. If you have any questions, call the Cardiac Center at (479) 709-7325.

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The Heart Truth

Facing the cold, hard facts can be difficult, but with access to the right information you can start turning things around.

Ready for a sobering truth? According to the Gallup-Healthways annual well-being study, residents of Fort Smith are more likely than most other Americans to suffer a heart attack at some point in their lifetimes. Yikes! This fact should startle you a little, but there is something you can do about it, and Sparks Regional Medical Center wants to help! That's why we've organized a community-wide event on February 8th: The Heart Truth. Here's what you can expect when you show up:

Life changing (and saving) screenings

Do you know your BMI, blood pressure numbers, and cholesterol levels? Knowledge is power, and these screenings are vital if you want to stay on top of your cardiac health. If it's been a while since your last check-up, screenings and tests will be provided during the event.

Seminars packed with invaluable information

You don't always have the time to do your research when an emergency occurs. Some information is best to have in advance. Our seminars will go over the most common signs of a heart attack, and we'll review how you'll know when a 911 call is needed.

Advice from trustworthy physicians

You'll know that the information and care you receive at The Heart Truth is the best available because we're bringing in experts, such as A. Nasser Adjei, M.D., Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist, and Margaret Tremwel, M.D., Board Certified Neurologist. 

Although this is a free event for our community, we do request that you register in advance. Let us know that we'll see you there when you call 877-709-DOCS or 479-709-DOCS.

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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism?

Is your thyroid working for you or against you?

When the thyroid is functioning properly, it's unlikely you'll even give it a second thought – but one little glitch can send your health into a tailspin. Your weight, energy level, menstrual cycle, and mood can become unpredictable, and prolonged thyroid conditions could lead to heart problems, weak bones, or fertility issues.

One common thyroid condition is hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid starts producing too much thyroxine, a hormone that primarily assists in your body's metabolism. You might have hyperthyroidism if you are experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss – If you aren't trying to lose weight, but your scale keeps dipping lower and lower, your thyroid may be acting up.
  • Shaky hands – Look out for a quiver in your hands.
  • Racing heart – This symptom will occur even if you haven't exercised or consumed any caffeine or other stimulants.
  • Fatigue – Always tired? Talk to your doctor about why.
  • Insomnia – On the other hand, you may find yourself restless and energized long into the night.
  • Weakness – Hyperthyroidism may affect your muscles.
  • Hot flashes – Too much thyroxine could hinder your ability to regulate your body temperature, resulting in warm, sweaty skin – even in could weather.
  • Frequent bowel movements – Don't be embarrassed; if you're spending more time in the bathroom than usual, consult your doctor.

If the above signs and symptoms sound familiar, you can find answers at Sparks Regional Medical Center. Learn more about our endocrinology department, or get a free physician referral when you call (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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3 Reasons Why Driving Drowsy Is So Dangerous

Getting behind the wheel while drowsy can be extremely dangerous. Find out why.

Have you ever been seriously tired while driving? Feeling symptoms of fatigue and getting behind the wheel can lead to some devastating consequences.

Reasons that driving drowsy is so dangerous include: 
  1. Slowed judgment and reaction time Sleep deprivation can lead to impaired reaction times, judgment, and vision. Dangers of drowsy driving can include symptoms such as: not being able to remember the last few miles you’ve driven, a wandering mind, drifting as you drive, excessive yawning, tailgating other vehicles, and missing traffic signs.
  2. Problems with information processing and short-term memory This makes drivers less attentive, slows reaction time, and affects a driver's ability to make decisions.
  3. Decreased performance, vigilance, and motivation This causes increased moodiness and aggressive behaviors.

Sleep tips include:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule, which will help you get the proper rest to drive alert.
  • Respond to symptoms of fatigue by finding a safe place to stop for a break.
  • Avoid over-the-counter medications and alcohol if you plan to drive.
  • Sleep related medical conditions may be especially dangerous when driving.
  • Most adults need eight hours of good rest to be alert while driving.

Reduce Your Risk 

According to a Centers for Disease Control, out of 150,000 adults aged at least 18 years or older in 19 states and DC, 4.2% reported that they had fallen asleep while driving at least once in the previous 30 days. Individuals who snored or usually slept 6 or fewer hours per day were more likely to report this behavior.

At Sparks, your health is always our priority! If you would like to request a physician referral to make an appointment, please call (479) 709-DOCS (3627) or (877) 709-DOCS.

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How Our Rehabilitation Services Can Help You

You can rely on Sparks Regional for a wide range of rehabilitative care.

Depending on the situation, recovering from an injury or illness can be a long and difficult process. Patients need just the right kind of care, administered by the best doctors, therapists, and staff in their field. At Sparks Regional Medical Center, we’re proud to offer that kind of quality care through a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation. Here’s a closer look at some of the services we offer.

Acute Care

Anyone needing comprehensive inpatient care is sure to get it at Sparks. Acute care is available for a wide range of serious medical problems, including:

  • Amputations
  • Brain injuries
  • Multiple trauma
  • Neuromuscular disorders
  • Polyarthritis
  • Spinal cord injuries and tumors
  • Strokes

Treatment strategies and services include:

  • Customized therapy to meet each patient’s needs
  • Around-the-clock supervision by rehab nurses and doctors
  • Immediate access to imaging, lab, and pharmacy services
  • Assistance from dieticians, social workers, and other specialized hospital staff, as needed
  • Access to continuing care through outpatient and home rehabilitation services

Outpatient Care

Whether someone is recovering from an injury or grappling with chronic pain, our outpatient services can provide a solution. These include:

  • Physical therapy, to build strength and endurance and help improve balance and mobility
  • Occupational therapy, to help patients regain the strength and endurance they need to perform daily activities, such as taking care of personal hygiene, cooking meals, and doing household chores
  • Speech therapy, which can address such issues as swallowing difficulties, memory deficits, voice dysfunction, and language barriers
  • Pain management, which features a range of options for reducing or eliminating pain.

Specialized Rehabilitation

People suffering from certain medical conditions can benefit from rehab programs specifically tailored to their needs. These conditions include:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Heart and vascular conditions
  • Joint replacement
  • Neurological conditions
  • Pulmonary conditions

Home Care

Physical, occupational, and speech therapists are available to provide their services in patients’ homes.

Whatever the rehabilitation needs are for you or a loved one, Sparks Regional Medical Center has trained staff to help. For physician referrals, call (479) 709-DOCS (3627). By calling that number you can also get information about the referral required for outpatient rehabilitation services.

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