June 2002 Health News Tips

Note to media: To reach the media contacts for any of these health news tips, call the Office of News and Publications at 214-648-3404.

CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING ASPIRIN THERAPY

Aspirin therapy has been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart disease, and there is strong evidence of its benefit for patients who already have cardiovascular problems. But one should not merely rely on a self-diagnosis before taking aspirin.

"It’s important for people to consult with their doctor to learn about the recommended dosage and the risks," says Dr. Sharon Reimold, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"The recommended dosage for primary prevention is variable with doses ranging from 75 milligrams a day to 325 mg every other day. People who have had a heart attack, unstable angina, ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attacks should consider taking aspirin as secondary prevention. The recommended dosage is 325 mg a day," she says.

People with liver or kidney disease, stomach ulcers, other gastrointestinal diseases, bleeding problems or who are allergic to aspirin are at the greatest risk from regular aspirin use.

Media Contact: Amy Shields

GENITAL-WARTS CREAM SHOWS PROMISE AS SKIN-CANCER THERAPY

A topical cream used to treat genital warts may one day help treat basal-cell carcinoma - one of the most common types of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States. Dr. Amit Pandya, associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, has conducted clinical trials on the cream, called imiquimod. The next trial phase will be conducted in Europe.

"Instead of affecting the lesion directly, imiquimod causes the body’s immune system to produce and recruit cells involved in the production of immunity," Pandya says. "Those cells in turn produce interferon and other agents to eradicate the cancerous growth."

Current treatments used for skin lesions can cause a toxic reaction and destroy tissue. Usually the only option is to excise the lesion.

Media Contact: Ione Echeverria

THERE’S SOMETHING EYE-DAMAGING LURKING IN THE WATER

People who wear contact lenses are more likely to develop an eye infection from an amoeba that is commonly found in tap water, ponds and lakes.

Dr. Dwight Cavanagh, vice chairman of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says the organism, Acanthamoeba, is resistant to chlorine used to sterilize tap water.

"People who wear their contact lenses while taking a shower, use tap water to remove debris from their lenses or go swimming in ponds or lakes have an increased chance of becoming infected with this organism," Cavanagh says. "The amoeba can bind to the contact lens and cause irreparable damage to the cornea."

With fewer than 150 cases reported every year, Acanthamoeba kerititis is rare, but the eye infection can worsen without proper treatment and can result in blindness or necessitate a corneal transplant. Warning signs of infection are redness, vision loss and exquisite eye pain. If you experience these symptoms, consult an ophthalmologist immediately.

Media Contact: Ione Echeverria

GARDENING AND TICKS GO HAND IN HAND, SO USE PRECAUTIONS

With spring weather, fertile soil and a long gardening season at hand, many people are rolling up their sleeves for some serious gardening.

But here’s a timely reminder for all tillers of the soil: Be careful of pests that can attack more than your plants. A tick bite can bring both pain and disease, say doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"A tick bite is usually harmless, but you should still take precautions in the summer to prevent tick bites," says Dr. Ronald Charles, assistant professor of emergency medicine.

"They can cause diseases like Lyme Disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever."

Charles recommends wearing long pants tucked into socks, keeping long hair tucked back and wearing gloves when working in the yard.

"After being outside, thoroughly check yourself for ticks," he says. "Don’t forget to check your scalp, inside your ears and behind your head and neck."

If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers. Check the site of the bite for several days, and call your doctor if you notice common symptoms of tick-borne illness like fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, nausea and fatigue.

Media Contact: Mindy Baxter

PROTECT EARS FROM DAMAGE WITH AFTER-SWIM DROPS

As summer heat drives people into swimming pools and lakes, it’s important to remember that those refreshing dips can lead to painful ear infections.

Dr. Barbara Schultz, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, strongly recommends treating the ears with over-the-counter drops that cost $2 to $3 per bottle or with a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol after leaving the water for the day.

"When water mixes with ear wax, that’s a perfect growth medium for bacteria in a dark, somewhat enclosed space like the ear," she says. "Swimmer’s ear is painful, and the antibiotics we use to treat it are a lot more expensive than the preventive measures."

Schultz also warned against using a cotton swab or other absorbent material to dry the ears out.

"As always, you should never stick anything into your ear," she says.

Schultz says people with surgically implanted tubes or damaged eardrums often may swim, but should do so only with a doctor’s approval. They also should not apply drying drops or vinegar and alcohol after swimming. It would not damage the ear, but would be very painful.

"If they did it once, they wouldn’t do it again," Schultz adds.

Media Contact: Wayne Carter

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