February 2006 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.

Forget the catchy tunes, record-keeping could save your life

These days, you can carry an entire music collection inside a gadget that fits in your pocket.

Shouldn't you be able to access your medical records with the same ease?

"Most people cannot name the medications and dosages that they're taking," says Dr. Raymond Fowler,  associate professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

That's a problem, especially if you find yourself away from home or unable to communicate with others during a medical emergency.

Dr. Fowler says you should safeguard yourself and help healthcare providers who will be treating you by ensuring an informational sheet is in your wallet or purse. A medical profile should include:

  • Blood type
  • Drug allergies or reactions
  • All medications and supplements taken daily or occasionally (name, dose, directions)
  • Dates of vaccinations
  • Name and phone number of primary-care physician and of emergency contact
  • Organ donor card, living will

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/patientcare/medicalservices/hospitals/stpaul.html to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in emergency medicine.

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

Contaminants cause humidifiers to become infectious

Humidifiers are harmless if you use common sense, says Dr. Jane Siegel, an infection specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"It is important to keep them clean and dry," Dr. Siegel says.

For people who get one or two upper respiratory infections a year, cleaning a humidifier with water and drying it should suffice. For those with cystic fibrosis or other conditions that make them more susceptible to respiratory infections, it's a good idea to clean humidifiers with a disinfectant, she says.

To minimize the risk of infections, Dr. Siegel says using humidifiers that emit cool mist are better than hot water humidifiers.

"Just use common sense," Dr. Siegel advises. "When you're done using one, empty the water out and dry it."

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/infectiousdiseases to learn more about
UT Southwestern’s clinical services in infectious diseases.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales

In chilly climes the only flakes you want to see are snowflakes

Indoor heating and cold weather are a 1-2 wintertime punch that robs skin of moisture while exacerbating dandruff. 

Dandruff is an itchy, persistent disorder caused by excessive shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp, says Dr. Paul Bergstresser, chairman of dermatology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"Although there isn't a cure for dandruff, it can be controlled," Bergstresser says. "Over-the-counter shampoos, especially those containing tar, are effective in restoring moisture balance to the scalp and reducing flaking."

Bergstresser suggests visiting a dermatologist if flaking or itching persists and is accompanied by redness and greasy scaling on the face, eyebrows and eyelashes.

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/dermatology to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in dermatology.

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Tobacco exposure causes risk of bladder cancer to soar

If you want to avoid contracting bladder cancer, stay away from tobacco products. Smoking increases your risk more than 400 percent over non-smokers.

"Even cigars and chewing tobacco can increase the risk because the carcinogens are excreted in the urine regardless of how they enter the body," says Dr. Yair Lotan, assistant professor of urology at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Bladder cancer may develop years after people stop smoking because of cumulative effects on the bladder lining. Other risk factors for bladder cancer include environmental exposures and occupational exposures such as aniline dyes, combustion gases and soot from coal, petroleum byproducts and chemical dyes used in the rubber and textile industries.

Bladder cancer is the fourth most prevalent cancer in men and the ninth most common cancer in women Most patients are in their 50s or older. Unfortunately, bladder cancer does not cause symptoms or problems until relatively late. The most common complaint is blood in the urine, which is usually painless.

Even when patients seek prompt evaluation, up to 25 percent of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage resulting in a significantly higher risk of death. Early detection is crucial to survival. Even if you are not at high risk, any sign of blood in the urine should result in prompt evaluation to reduce the risk of overlooking cancer, Dr. Lotan advises.

http://www.utsouthwestern.org/urology to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in urology.

Media Contact: Toni Heinzl

Medication regimen key to controlling effects of epilepsy

While most people with epilepsy are treated with medication, family members and friends should stay vigilant to make sure they're taking their medicine, and not avoiding it because of side effects or expense, says Dr. Paul van Ness, director of the UT Southwestern Medical Center's Epilepsy Center.

"Seizures can look scary, although some family members can learn to deal with them," Dr. van Ness says.

About 2.4 million people have epilepsy in the United States, and about 70 percent of them control seizures with medication. The rest may use a combination of medications or undergo surgery.

Side effects of medication include fatigue, abdominal discomfort, dizziness, or blurred vision. People with epilepsy should be open to discussing these problems with their doctors, Dr. van Ness says. They should also discuss expense or inconvenience of medication that must be taken several times a day if that interferes with their ability or desire to take the medicine.

http://www.utsouthwestern.org/neurosciences to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie


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