A drug-free way to treat depression

FRESNO, Calif.

A Valley doctor offers the therapy that's drug-free, with no down-time and no side effects.

Lynda Coombs can count on more good days than bad. She finds joy in life now, but for years she saw only darkness.

The 63-year-old retired Fresno business owner says her depression was likely genetic. Her mother passed away from complications linked to her own depression.

But Lynda wanted to change her future, and her fate, with her loving family by her side.

"If someone knows someone who's having a hard time, it's really important not to turn their back on them, to not criticize them," Coombs said.

Lynda's doctor, Fresno psychiatrist, Dr. Edgar Castillo-Armas, says patients like Lynda who aren't getting effective results from anti-depression medication can benefit from Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

While the technology has been used for years, a special machine is now FDA approved to treat depression.

"Their thoughts are improved. Their ability to concentrate, cognitive functions are improved," Dr. Castillo-Armas said.

Neurostar, the make of TMS therapy, provided a video to show how a highly focused magnetic pulse to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain that controls mood.

A patient sits in the special chair for the non-invasive treatment that requires no anesthesia and no down time.

A patient can return to their normal routine after each, 30-40 minute session.

Since the TMS therapy only targets the mood center of the brain, other areas aren't affected and that can dramatically reduced or even eliminate side effects, unlike medication that can affect other organs in the body.

Dr. Castillo says a few minutes under the machine in a series of sessions can have life-changing results.

"Suicide ideas and suicide thinking are a major symptom of a depressive disorder. This therapy also alleviates those symptoms," he said.

Lynda underwent 6 weeks of treatment and believes it saved her life.

"I don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for that," she said.

Now she hopes to help others with depression so they don't have to suffer in silence.

Dr. Castillo-Armas says TMS therapy for depression is covered by most health insurance plans and can save money for the patient by reducing or even eliminating the need for anti-depression drugs.

He also says the research is underway on using TMS to also treat Alzheimer's Disease, autism and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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