March 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.

Be aware of diverse symptoms of multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis, a neurodegenerative autoimmune disease in which the fatty covering of nerves becomes increasingly damaged, can manifest itself in many ways. This wide array of symptoms can lead people to ignore early attacks – something that can cut them off from important early treatment, say doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“MS is like a chameleon — its signs and symptoms are so varied that it should be part of each clinician’s differential diagnosis,” says Dr. Anjali N. Shah, who leads MS neurorehabilitation at UT Southwestern’s Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Center.

Some common symptoms include: blurred or painful vision, numbness, tingling, burning in the arms or legs, fatigue, double vision, bowel or bladder dysfunction and cognitive deficits.

An estimated 350,000 people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed with MS. It is more common in women than men, appears more frequently in whites than in Hispanics or African Americans and is relatively rare among Asians and certain other groups.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Aline McKenzie

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month.

Butter or margarine: What is the healthier choice?

A soft margarine spread is the healthier choice in the long-debated butter-or-margarine battle, says Dr. Jo Ann Carson, a clinical nutritionist at UT Southwestern.

Margarine, made from vegetable oil, is cholesterol-free and higher in polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats, which help reduce a person’s “bad” LDL cholesterol level. Butter, made from animal fat, contains dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, which tend to raise that “bad” cholesterol level.

But not all margarines are created equal, Dr. Carson warns.

Stick margarine contains trans fats, which are created when oils are hydrogenated to make the margarine solid. Trans fats, like dietary cholesterol and saturated fats, elevate “bad” cholesterol.

“The best choice is a soft tub margarine or liquid spread because they tend to incorporate water and other ingredients that reduce the potential for trans fats and calories,” Dr. Carson says.

If you’re having trouble selecting which soft margarine might be best, the best thing you could do is look for a product that is low in both saturated and trans fats, she adds.

And, or course, people aren’t required to use butter or margarine.

“Another option is to do as the Mediterraneans do,” Dr. Carson says. “Dip your bread in seasoned olive oil instead of butter or margarine.”

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in neurosciences.

Media Contact: Cliff Despres

New Medicare rules may aid those with astigmatism, cataracts
People with astigmatism and cataracts may benefit from a new Medicare rule extending coverage for the new type of implantable lenses that treat both conditions.

Astigmatism, one of the most common vision problems, causes blurry vision due to irregularly shaped cornea. Cataracts cause cloudy vision and are more common as we age.

Cataracts can sometimes be fixed by replacing the damaged natural lens with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens. Intraocular lenses allow ophthalmologists to use one lens to fix both the cataract and astigmatism, improving distance vision and reducing dependence on glasses.

“So we can offer to our patients not only cataract correction with the monofocal lens, but cataract correction with a monofocal lens that will also correct for astigmatism,” says Dr. James McCulley, chairman of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern. The lenses’ FDA trials demonstrated that 97 percent of patients implanted with this lens in both eye didn’t need glasses to see well at a distance.

The new rules allow patients to get the specialized implantable lenses with Medicare covering the cost of the cataract surgery and part of the cost of the lens. The patient is billed for the remaining uncovered costs of the lens and surgery. The new rules are similar to existing rules that allow patients to pay a premium for implantable lenses to fix cataracts and presbyopia, a common condition after 40 that makes it hard to focus on nearby items.

Contact UT Southwestern’s Laser Center for Vision Care at 888-663-2020 for more information or appointments.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in eyes (ophthalmology).

Media Contact: Russell Rian

Males who have smoked should screen for dangerous aneurysm

Men ages 65 and older who have ever smoked should have a one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm, say cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Men age 60 and older with a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm should also consider a screening. High blood pressure and a history of smoking can increase your chances of having an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

“Aortic aneurysm ruptures are the 13th leading cause of death of men in the United States,” says Dr. Frank Arko, a cardiac surgeon UT Southwestern. “They typically strike men over the age of 65. Between 60 percent and 80 percent of patients who have an aortic rupture die before they can be treated.”

This type of aneurysm can cause a rupture of the aorta — the largest artery in the body. Screenings are non-invasive and may be covered by Medicare. For additional information on screenings, please call 214-645-0538.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in heart, lung and vascular.

Media Contact: Katherine Morales


About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. Its more than 1,400 full-time faculty members — including four active Nobel prize winners, more than any other medical school in the world — are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and are committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 89,000 hospitalized patients and oversee 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.?


To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via e-mail, subscribe at