July 2005 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.

Fun in the sun comes at a cost, but skin protection is cheap

Summer's the perfect opportunity for outdoor activities. It's also the perfect opportunity for too much sun. 

"The summer sun is more damaging to the skin because of increased opportunities for exposure," says Dr. Stan Taylor, professor of dermatology and director of the skin surgery and oncology clinic at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Besides sunburn, too much sun can cause skin cancer and other problems. "Changes in normal routines can be extremely detrimental for those with fair skin types, and bursts of sun exposure for even less than an hour in these individuals can lead to significant skin damage," says Dr. Taylor.

The best way to protect yourself is by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and using sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, says Dr. Taylor. Apply sunscreen liberally and frequently, using a broad-spectrum product that covers both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light. The sun's rays are also strongest from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so limit exposure during those hours. Seek shade, and cover up as much as possible.

"People need to retrain themselves to experience unease when they feel the sun hitting their skin," he says. "They also need to always seek shade either through clothing or shelter. This will minimize the powerful aging effects sun exposure has on the skin and the risk of corneal damage, as well as decrease the risk of skin cancer."

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Don't make health decisions based solely on Web findings; confirm with physician

For many people, finding health information is as simple as going online. But the Internet does not replace personal consultation with a physician.

"Many Internet sites can collect enough historical information to raise suspicion of one or more diagnoses, but those sites cannot do an appropriate examination or tests, nor can they apply trained clinical reasoning to the results," says Dr. Shelley Roaten, chairman of family and community medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Although the autopilot technology of modern jet airliners is quite good, no one wants to be on an airplane without a human pilot in the cockpit."

A recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found nearly 80 percent of Internet users, about 95 million adults, use the Web for health research. "With careful searching, answers are available for almost any health topic," Dr. Roaten says. However, he cautions to confirm any findings with a physician before using any medications or undergoing unscheduled or experimental treatments.

"Patients should consider the Internet sites of reputable federal agencies, state health agencies, nonprofit health organizations, professional organizations and university health centers," Dr. Roaten says. "Informed patients can ask their physician better questions."

Media Contact: Kara Lindsley

Is your child acting out of character? Consider evaluation for mental illness

Half of all cases of mental illness start before age 14 and three-fourths start before age 24, underscoring the need for better early detection and treatment, says Dr. Graham Emslie, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"If your child describes feelings of being anxious, worried or depressed, and/or is having trouble performing at the same level as before in more than one of three key areas - at school, at home or with friends - then it could indicate it's more than a developmental phase he or she is going through," Dr. Emslie says. "Another concern is a child's free time. Does your child have interests, hobbies and activities that excite him and which he likes to pursue? Kids who are functioning well have long lists of these."

If you believe your child is acting out of character, Dr. Emslie suggests a visit to your primary care doctor, a psychiatrist or a psychologist for possible evaluation.

Media Contact: Donna Steph Hansard

Tear-duct obstruction can still bring tears to a baby's eyes

Does your newborn seem to tear more out of one eye, or are the eyelids stuck together in the morning?  Your infant may have a common condition called congenital nasolacrimal duct obstruction, or dacrostenosis, which affects up to 6 percent of newborns. 

Normally a very small tube (nasolacrimal duct) drains the tears from an opening in the inside corner of the eye into the nose.  However, in infants whose ducts are blocked or have not opened completely, tears collect in the eye, and may drain out or thicken.

"Most infants can be managed with cleaning the eyes with warm water to keep the lids open and allow normal vision to develop," says Dr. Angela Mihalic, assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center. "Topical antibiotic drops or ointments are used when drainage increases or redness to the eye begins. Severe symptoms, such as fever or swelling, require further evaluation and treatment by a physician."

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

Beating a path to the privy? Cut down on the caffeine

You might want to rethink your drink if that extra morning cup of coffee sends you running to the bathroom, UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians say.

Products with caffeine, like chocolate, tea and sodas, can cause bladder irritation for some people, says Dr. Gary Lemack, associate professor of urology.

"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," says Dr. Lemack. "In patients prone to problems with urinary urgency and frequency, we do recommend they avoid what causes the problem."

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

Media Contact: Toni Heinzl

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