May 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.

USE A QUICK-RELIEF ASTHMA INHALER OFTEN? YOU MAY NEED NEW MEDICATION

Using a quick-relief inhaler to ward of asthma symptoms more than two times a week may indicate the need for an anti-inflammatory medication, says Dr. Yolanda Mageto, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

Awakening at night with asthma twice a week or having to refill a quick-relief inhaler more than two times a year usually signals the need for new medications as well, Mageto adds.

You should ask your doctor about a preventative or anti-inflammatory medication to get your asthma back in control if you experience any of these symptoms, she says.

Asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease that causes the airways of the lung to tighten and constrict, resulting in periodic attacks of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightening and coughing, can be controlled with proper management, Mageto says.

Media Contact: Amy Shields

ASPIRIN MAY HELP PREVENT COLON CANCER BUT MORE STUDIES NEEDED

Studies have shown that aspirin could offer some protection against polyps that develop into colon cancer, but people worried about developing the disease shouldn’t reach for their aspirin bottles yet.

Dr. Carlos Becerra, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and a colorectal cancer specialist, says observational studies support the theory that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin decrease the risk of developing polyps.

A recent study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research conference in early April indicated that baby aspirin taken daily reduced by 19 percent the risk of recurrence in people who have had polyps removed. But the researchers cautioned that more studies are needed to confirm aspirin’s role in warding off colon cancer, and Becerra agrees.

Although the weight of evidence does favor aspirin, there still needs to be randomized studies to determine whether the drug is protective against colon cancer,” Becerra says.

Media contact: Wayne Carter

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTATION - WHO NEEDS IT?

Does eating a balanced diet ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients you need?

It should for most individuals, says Bernadette Latson, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

“Generally, people who are eating from all the food groups and eating a reasonable amount of food (about 2,000 calories per day) can meet their nutrient needs from diet,” says Latson, who is also a registered dietitian.

For those who don't meet the daily requirements, she says, a supplement with about 100 percent of the daily requirements for most nutrients is essential. People most likely to need supplements include: dieters who have cut out whole categories of foods or those on a very low-calorie diet, people with chronic illnesses or who are recuperating from illness or injury, aging adults, people with food intolerance or allergies, strict vegetarians, toddlers and pregnant women.

Media Contact: Amy Shields

NO NEED TO SCRATCH YOUR HEAD - RINGWORM IS EASY TO TREAT

Is your child exhibiting symptoms of ringworm? Don't panic. Doctors say that up to 15 percent of American children under age 10 will have the scalp infection.

“The infections are a common problem in childhood but, luckily, are relatively easy to treat,” says Dr. Robin Carder, assistant professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

The infection is caused by a fungus, despite what its name might indicate. The most common fungus strain causing scalp ringworm in the United States is spread from person-to-person contact, Carder says. A much less common scalp-ringworm strain can be contracted from pets, usually cats.

“Symptoms of scalp ringworm include itchy, scaling, pimple-like bumps and temporary, patchy hair loss,” says Carder. “If intense scalp inflammation lingers a long time, scarring and permanent hair loss can occur, but this is uncommon. Some children also develop enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, also temporary. Some people have no symptoms at all.”

Treatments consist of oral anti-fungal medicines prescribed by a doctor. Anti-fungal shampoos such as selenium sulfide and ketoconazole can help prevent spread of the fungus. To help prevent infection, don’t share hairbrushes, combs and hats, Carder says.

Media Contact: Barbara Bedrick

CUT THE CAFFEINE TO CUT TRIPS TO THE BATHROOM

If that extra cup of coffee in the morning sends you running for the bathroom, you might want to rethink your drink, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas physicians say.

It’s not true for everyone, but Dr. Gary Lemack, an assistant professor of urology, says products with caffeine, like chocolate, tea and sodas, can cause bladder irritation.

“In patients prone to problems with urinary urgency and frequency, we do recommend they avoid what causes the problem,” Lemack says. “It’s hard to break people’s routines, but if it’s affecting your quality of life it’s time to consider changing your habits.”

Caffeine is both a diuretic and a bladder irritant and, therefore, may result in increased urine production as well as enhanced bladder sensitivity, Lemack says. Other foods that might irritate your bladder include citrus foods, spicy foods and certain cheeses.

Media Contact: Mindy Baxter

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