Judy had severe knee pain. She went to her primary care provider and was referred to an orthopedist. He advised her that she did have severe arthritis, and surgery may be indicated, but that her excess body weight was likely making the pain worse. If she lost 30 pounds, he said, the pain may be improved significantly. Every 10 pounds, he said, was like 30 pounds on her knee. Judy was motivated to avoid surgery, but had already tried “every diet in the book,” so, as many people do, she turned to the Internet to do some research. There, she found Rainier Medical Weight Loss and Wellness, the practice of Dr. Valerie Sutherland, MD, and took a chance on making a new patient appointment. That was a year ago. Now, Judy has lost 90 pounds, and not only does she no longer have knee pain, but her diabetes and blood pressure numbers are normal. Judy says, “I lost way more than 30 pounds! I look forward to my blood work now, as the results are always phenomenal.”
Excess weight and obesity affect two-thirds of the population in America. This chronic metabolic disease is the second leading cause of preventable death in America and causes or contributes to more than 20 chronic conditions including cancer. Healthcare costs are an average of $8,000 more per year for a person with obesity, and with a BMI over 40, life span is 8-10 years shorter. Studies show that people with obesity encounter a “weight bias and discrimination” in many places, including their doctors’ offices. This can manifest itself in many ways that affects the healthcare they receive. Symptoms such as pain or shortness of breath may be attributed to their weight when, in fact, they are caused by something else. This can lead to a delayed or missed diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made, fewer or less aggressive treatment options may be offered to a patient with obesity than a patient of normal weight. Moreover, many physicians are not trained in the underlying causes or treatment of obesity, and do not consider obesity a disease, despite the American Medical Association’s official recognition of it as such. Therefore, many people have experienced shame or blame at their physician’s office and lack of evidence based treatment or referral for this disease.
Dr. Valerie Sutherland is a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine and is dedicated to increasing awareness of the treatment options for obesity. Many people are being treated for the symptoms of obesity and not the underlying cause and do not even know that medical treatment for excess weight is an option. Prescription medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, reflux, as well as machines for obstructive sleep apnea and pain medication for arthritis, are all prescribed when treatment for the excess weight may cause remission of those diseases. In Dr. Sutherland’s practice, many people are motivated by their desire to avoid getting diabetes, avoid insulin, get off medications, or no longer require a breathing machine at night. While not everyone is advised to reduce or stop medications, and many medications have benefits even at normal weight, there are many cases when individuals are very pleased with how weight loss has reduced their overall health care and medication requirements and improved quality of life, function, and overall sense of well-being.
Dr. Sutherland has some tips and advice for individuals with obesity for talking with their physicians. “Ask your physician if your symptoms could be from something other than your weight. This should trigger him or her to make a more comprehensive differential diagnosis. If you would like to know about treatment options for obesity, ask your physician if he or she has experience and training with successfully designing a treatment plan, including prescribing any of the FDA approved medications for obesity. If not, ask for a referral for a specialist.” The Obesity Medicine Association has approximately 1,400 physicians in the United States and Canada, and one of them is right here in University Place. Rainier Medical Weight Loss and Wellness has helped their patients lose over 14,000 pounds since opening in June 2015. A second office opened in Puyallup in August 2016. Most insurances are accepted and new patient appointments are available. Visit rainiermd.com for more information or call (253) 292-1535.