July 2007 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.

To protect your eyes, get a bang out of professional fireworks shows

A fireworks display at home may sound like a fun way to celebrate Independence Day, but amateur shows, including the backyard variety, can be dangerous and vision-threatening, says Dr. Preston Blomquist, associate professor of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“We have seen people lose vision and lose eyes,” he says, adding that bottle rockets tend to cause most of the injuries. “The rockets fly erratically, and the bottles or cans used to launch the rockets can explode, creating shrapnel.”

In addition to showering spectators with glass and metal fragments, bottle rockets can also strike the eye directly. Anyone who suffers a fireworks-related eye injury should immediately go to a hospital emergency room.

There are about 11,000 fireworks-related injuries every year, with almost 2,200 of those affecting the eyes. Consumer fireworks are responsible for one-third of all eye injuries.

Says Dr. Blomquist: “Go watch a professional fireworks event; don’t do this at home.”

Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/ophth to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in eyes (ophthalmology).

Media Contact: Russell Rian

June 1 through July 4 is Fireworks Safety Month

Colon cancer examinations needed as you age

Everyone should have their colon examined by the time they’re 50 years old, says Dr. Don Rockey, chief of digestive and liver diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center. And depending on family history, it may be especially important for some men to have the cancer check-up starting at age 40.

Colon cancer is the second-most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., resulting in about 56,000 deaths each year. More than 145,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

“The good news is that colon cancer is highly curable when detected early, so it’s important not to forgo a checkup,” Dr. Rockey says.

The colon is the large intestine, which processes and eliminates waste after nutrients are absorbed. Doctors can check for cancerous growth by a procedure called a colonoscopy, in which a flexible tube with a camera is snaked through the intestine. UT Southwestern and other health-care facilities also offer less-invasive methods to determine whether a full colonoscopy is needed. Those include a “virtual colonoscopy,” which uses a CT scanner and virtual reality software to look for growths.

For more information, contact the Digestive and Liver Diseases Clinic at UT Southwestern at 214-645-0595.

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

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Don’t let snakes sneak up on you

Summertime is the season when the majority of snake bites occur nationwide each year.

About 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes annually in the U.S. Most of the bites occur between April and October, when outdoor activities are popular.

In Texas, about one to two people die each year from venomous snake bites. The most common type of venomous snake in Texas is the pit viper — a classification that includes the copperhead, cottonmouth and rattlesnake.

Of those, copperheads are blamed for most bites seen in Dallas-area emergency rooms, says Dr. Kurt Kleinschmidt, associate professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Luckily, the copperhead is the least dangerous of the pit vipers and many patients bitten by them may not need antivenin therapy.

Snakes will strike when threatened or surprised, but most will usually avoid the encounter. If you are moving through tall grass or weeds, poke at the ground in front of you with a long stick to scare away snakes. Watch where you step and where you sit when outdoors. When hiking, wear boots and long pants.

“If bitten, the most important thing to remember is to seek immediate medical attention at your local emergency room,” Dr. Kleinschmidt says.

Before you reach the ER, Dr. Kleinschmidt suggests following these first aid rules:

  • Stay calm.
  • If you see the snake, try to remember what it looks like. Don’t try to catch the reptile; it could bite you again.  
  • Quickly remove any jewelry or tight clothing near the bite, before swelling starts.
  • Wash the area with soap and water if possible, and keep the bitten limb below the heart.
  • Do not make cuts over the snake bite or apply a tourniquet or constricting device.
  • Do not apply a cold pack or ice to the bite area.

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

Media Contact: Connie Piloto

Your brain needs a healthy diet also

To keep your mind sharp, eat foods rich in iron, zinc, niacin, thiamin and vitamins B6 and B12, says Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Studies show that these nutrients benefit brain development and function. Deficiencies can hamper brain function and cause mood disturbances, confusion, poor concentration, easy agitation and nerve-cell damage that make extremities numb.

“If you’re deficient, improved dietary intake of these minerals can improve alertness and concentration when normal blood levels are reached,” Ms. Sandon says.

Ms. Sandon lists a few foods rich in these nutrients:

  • Iron: Beef, fish, poultry, leafy vegetables
  • Zinc: Oysters, nuts, grains, beans, cereals, whole-grain breads
  • Niacin: Beef, fish, poultry, leafy vegetables, nuts, grains, tomatoes, carrots, milk
  • Thiamin: Beef, pork, nuts, grains, peas, spinach, some beans, breads
  • Vitamin B6: Liver, fish, poultry, green beans, bananas, nuts
  • Vitamin B12: Beef, liver, shellfish, eggs, milk, fortified cereals

Ms. Sandon also touts the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found primarily in fish. Omega-3 is essential to proper growth and development of the brain and spinal cord.

In the end, a simple plan can help keep a person’s mind in tip-top shape.

“Eat a healthy, balanced diet, get regular exercise, and get plenty of rest,” Ms. Sandon says.

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

Media Contact: Cliff Despres


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