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  • January 14, 2022

    By Allison Larson, MD

    Whether you’re a winter sports enthusiast or spend the season curled up by the fireplace, the low humidity, bitter winds, and dry indoor heat that accompany cold weather can deplete your skin’s natural moisture. Dry skin is not only painful, uncomfortable, and irritating; it also can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, which results in itchy, red, bumpy skin patches. 

    Follow these six tips to prevent and treat skin damage caused by winter dryness.

    1. Do: Wear sunscreen all year long.

    UV rays can easily penetrate cloudy skies to dry out exposed skin. And when the sun is shining, snow and ice reflect its rays, increasing UV exposure. 

    Getting a sunburn can cause severe dryness, premature aging of the skin, and skin cancer. Snow or shine, apply sunscreen before participating in any outdoor activity during the winter—especially if you take a tropical vacation to escape the cold; your skin is less accustomed to sunlight and more likely to burn quickly.

    The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

    That being said, if you are considering laser skin treatments to reduce wrinkles, hair, blemishes, or acne scars, winter is a better time to receive these procedures. Sun exposure shortly after a treatment increases the risk of hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin), and people are less likely to spend time outside during the winter.

    Related reading: 7 Simple Ways to Protect Your Skin in the Sun

    2. Do: Skip products with drying ingredients.

    Soaps or facial products you use in warm weather with no issues may irritate your skin during colder seasons. This is because they contain ingredients that can cause dryness, but the effects aren’t noticeable until they’re worsened by the dry winter climate.

    You may need to take a break from:

    • Anti-acne medications containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
    • Antibacterial and detergent-based soap
    • Anything containing fragrance, from soap to hand sanitizer

    Hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer, which contains a high level of skin-drying alcohol, cannot be avoided; we need to maintain good hand hygiene to stop the spread of germs. If your job or lifestyle requires frequent hand washing or sanitizing, routinely apply hand cream throughout the day as well.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen a lot of people develop hand dermatitis—a condition with itchy, burning skin that can swell and blister—due to constant hand washing. Sometimes the fix is as simple as changing the soap they're using. Sensitive-skin soap is the best product for dry skin; it typically foams up less but still cleans the skin efficiently.

    3. Do: Pay closer attention to thick skin.

    Areas of thin skin, such as the face and backs of your hands, are usually exposed to the wind and sun the most. It’s easy to tell when they start drying out. But the thick skin on your palms and bottoms of your feet is also prone to dryness—and tends to receive less attention.

    When thick skin gets dry, fissures form. You’ll see the surface turn white and scaly; then deep, linear cracks will appear. It isn’t as pliable as thin skin. When you’re constantly on your feet or using your hands to work, cook, and everything in between, dry thick skin cracks instead of flexing with your movements. 

    To soften cracked skin, gently massage a heavy-duty moisturizer—such as Vaseline—into the affected area once or twice a day. You can also talk with your doctor about using a skin-safe adhesive to close the fissures and help them heal faster.

    Related reading:  Follow these 5 Tips for Healthy Skin

    4. Don’t believe the myth that drinking more water will fix dry skin.

    Contrary to popular belief, the amount of water or fluids you drink does not play a major role in skin hydration—unless you’re severely dehydrated. In the winter, especially, dry skin is caused by external elements; it should be treated from the outside as well. 

    The best way to keep skin hydrated and healthy is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment—not lotion—to damp skin after a shower or bath.
    Some people need additional moisturizers for their hands, legs, or other areas prone to dryness.

    While some lotions are made better than others, most are a combination of water and powder that evaporates quickly. Creams and ointments work better because they contain ingredients that can help rebuild your skin barrier. 

    Look for products with ceramide, a fatty acid that helps rebuild the fat and protein barrier that holds your skin cells together. The AAD also recommends moisturizing ingredients such as:

    • Dimethicone
    • Glycerin
    • Jojoba oil
    • Lanolin
    • Mineral oil
    • Petrolatum
    • Shea butter

    For severely dry skin, you can try a “wet wrap” technique:

    1. Rinse a pair of tight-fitting pajamas in warm water and wring them out so they’re damp, not wet.
    2. Apply cream or ointment to your skin.
    3. Put on the damp pajamas, followed by a pair of dry pajamas, and wear the ensemble for several hours.

    Dampness makes your skin more permeable and better able to absorb hydrating products. If the wet wrap or over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, talk with a dermatologist about prescription skin hydration options. 

    Drinking more water isn’t the answer to dry winter skin. The best solution is to apply fragrance-free cream or ointment directly to damp skin. Get more cold weather #SkinCareTips from a dermatologist in this blog:
    Click to Tweet


    5. Don’t confuse skin conditions with dryness.

    Skin conditions are often mistaken for dry skin because peeling or flaking are common symptoms. Redness of the skin or itching in addition to dryness and flaking indicates a skin condition that may need more than an over-the-counter moisturizer.

    Skin cells are anchored together by a lipid and protein layer (like a brick and mortar wall). With very dry skin, the seal on this wall or barrier is not fully intact and water evaporates out of the skin’s surface. The skin will become itchy and red in addition to scaly or flaky. If you experience these symptoms, visit with a dermatologist.

    6. Don’t wait for symptoms to take care of dry skin.

    Be proactive—the best way to maintain moisture is to apply hydrating creams and ointments directly to your skin on a regular basis. Start by applying them as part of your morning routine. Once you get used to that, add a nighttime application. And carry a container of it when you’re on the go or keep it in an easily accessible location at work.


    You can’t avoid dry air, but you can take precautions to reduce its harsh effects on your skin. If over-the-counter products don’t seem to help, our dermatologists can provide an individualized treatment plan. Hydrated skin is healthy skin!

    Does your skin get drier as the air gets colder?

    Our dermatologists can help.

    Call 202-877-DOCS (3627) or Request an Appointment

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  • October 03, 2017

    By David H. Song, MD

    There are many options available to patients for treating breast cancer. Unfortunately, a significant portion of patients will face the complication of lymphedema after their treatment. About 20 percent of patients diagnosed with breast cancer will develop lymphedema.

    About 20% of patients diagnosed with #breastcancer will develop #lymphedema. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Historically, there hasn’t been much doctors could do for lymphedema. Our treatment options focused on helping people deal with symptoms and adjust to the realities of having this condition, not addressing and eliminating the cause. But we now have surgeries that treat the root cause of lymphedema, not just symptom control.

    Lymphedema surgery can open up many possibilities for patients to do things they weren’t able to before. If you want to wear a fancy dress to an event, or if you want to play basketball or a game of tennis, you might not have to wear a compression sleeve anymore.

    LISTEN: Dr. Song discusses lymphedema surgery further on the Medical Intel podcast.

    I’m one of the only doctors in Washington, D.C., and the East Coast who offers these advanced surgeries, and I’m happy to talk with patients and their family members about their potential benefits.

    Request an appointment with me through our secure online form, or contact me at (202) 967-4575 so we can discuss whether lymphedema surgery is right for you.

    Request an Appointment

    What is lymphedema?

    Lymphedema is a condition in which lymph accumulates in the body, leading to swelling in the areas where it builds up. Lymph contains white blood cells, which help the body fight infections, as part of the immune system. Lymph vessels carry lymph that drains from the body’s tissues and organs to lymph nodes. Lymph nodes filter lymph and produce more white blood cells.  

    There are two kinds of lymphedema: primary lymphedema and secondary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is a condition people are born with. Patients who have breast cancer may be at risk for secondary lymphedema, which happens when lymph vessels are damaged or blocked because of another condition.  

    Treatment for breast cancer may involve the removal of the axillary, or underarm, lymph nodes. Even if these lymph nodes aren’t removed as part of a patient’s breast cancer surgery, they may still be damaged during the procedure. Removed or damaged axillary lymph nodes can keep lymph from draining properly from the arm, which causes the arm to swell.  

    Patients who have had any of the following procedures to treat their breast cancer may be at risk for lymphedema if their treatment involved the axillary lymph nodes:

    • Lumpectomy
    • Radiation therapy
    • Simple or radical mastectomy  

    If left untreated, lymphedema can lead to bacterial or fungal infections of the skin. Loss of mobility and flexibility in the affected arm are additional risks the condition carries.  

    Sometimes the swelling of lymphedema is easy to see. But it’s sometimes more difficult to notice right away. Watch for these lymphedema symptoms if you’ve had breast cancer surgery:

    • Feeling like the arm or hand is too tight, heavy or full
    • Pain or redness in the arm or hand
    • Thickened skin in the arm or hand
    • Tighter fit for shirts, watches or rings

    How we treat lymphedema

    People who have lymphedema may be able to manage the condition with treatments such as:

    • Compression bandages, pumps or sleeves
    • Physical therapy
    • Special massage techniques  

    But if the condition gets worse or doesn’t respond to these treatments, surgery may be a good option.  

    In the past, lymphedema surgery was limited to the removal of excess tissue and fluid in the arms. But modern techniques allow us to actually treat a patient’s lymphedema with surgery, rather than just addressing the symptoms. Our microsurgical procedures can help relieve the pain and swelling of lymphedema.

    Our microsurgical procedures can help relieve the pain and swelling of #lymphedema. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    We offer two forms of lymphedema surgery: lymph node transfer and lymphovenous bypass. Both of these tend to be more helpful and effective for patients who are in the early stages of lymphedema, rather than patients who have had lymphedema for a long time.

    Lymph node transfer

    In lymph node transfer surgery, we take healthy lymph nodes from another part of the body and transplant them to the area of swelling in a patient with lymphedema. These healthy lymph nodes then can improve the drainage of lymph in the patient’s arm and reduce swelling.

    We normally take healthy lymph nodes from a patient’s groin. Our microsurgical techniques mean we only need to make tiny incisions on the hand, as well as an incision on the groin that’s easily hidden by underwear or a bikini.

    Patients who live in the Washington, D.C., area stay in the hospital about 23 hours after surgery and go home. If a patient comes in from outside the region, they stay in the hospital for about two days, stay in the area but not in the hospital for a week, and then go home for care from their regular doctor.

    Lymphovenous bypass

    In lymphovenous bypass surgery, we lower lymph buildup and pressure by connecting blocked lymph vessels to nearby veins. This lets lymph drain away from the swollen arm to reduce swelling.

    This is an outpatient procedure, meaning patients can have the surgery and go home the same day. Lymphovenous bypass only requires tiny incisions and involves very little blood loss.

    Achieving goals for treating lymphedema

    Before I came to MedStar Health, I was chief of plastic surgery and associate dean at the University of Chicago, where I built a lymphedema surgery program from scratch. When I left, that program was the busiest in the country for the surgical treatment of lymphedema. I plan to do the same at MedStar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

    Our main focus is on how we can help our patients achieve their goals. Curing lymphedema is, I think, at the top of the list for every patient with lymphedema, and these surgeries can do that. But even if we can’t cure it completely in some cases, we can dramatically improve patients’ quality of life and help them manage the condition better.

    Treating patients for lymphedema is one of the most rewarding things I do as a surgeon. I love getting to help my patients reduce or even eliminate painful swelling and improve their mobility. And I love seeing the nearly immediate positive benefits these surgeries can have on my patients’ lives. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to help more patients enjoy life without the pain and discomfort of lymphedema.

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Research Grand Rounds are sponsored by MedStar Health Research Institute and Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science (GHUCCTS) and bring together the MedStar Health community for a learning experience focusing on a different topic each month.

    Research Grand Rounds are open to all members of the research team, from principal investigators to clinical and research coordinators and trainees. Topics covered in the Research Grand Rounds range from community-focused research to best practices and are intended to increase collaboration within the research community in and outside of MedStar Health.

    Mining the Large VA Medical Record Data Repository for Cohort Identification and Outcome Prediction
    Presented by  Qing Zeng, PhD
    Director, Biomedical Informatics Center
    Professor, Clinical Research and Leadership
    School of Medicine and Health Sciences
    George Washington University

    November 3, 2017 
    12 Noon to 1 PM – Presentation
    1 PM to 1:30 PM – Lunch
    MedStar Washington Hospital Center, 6th Floor, CTEC Theater
    110 Irving Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 20010

    The full schedule for the academic year 2017-2018 is being finalized. Check back soon for more information. For more information, please contact

    The webcast of the Research Grand Rounds are archived on the GHUCCTS website. Presentations are uploaded approximately 30 days from the event. View past presentations here.

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Open Enrollment for 2018 benefits starts next month. From October 31 to November 16, 2017, you will have the option to review your current benefit selections and determine which coverage best meets your needs for 2018. You may enroll in medical, dental and vision plans; flexible spending accounts; supplemental life insurance; supplemental accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance; dependent life coverage; legal resources; and voluntary benefits during Open Enrollment.

    Benefits fairs are scheduled throughout the system beginning October 30. Representatives from our retirement plan (Fidelity), voluntary benefits (The Warner Company), and our internal benefits team will be present at the fairs for questions and conversations. Please see the table below for date and location details for each fair.

    During the month of October, there will be further communication on the process and next steps. If you have any questions, please contact Kelly McNiff at

    Fair Date and Time Entity Location
    7:00 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Montgomery Medical Center
    18101 Prince Phillip Drive
    Olney, MD 20832
    Community Rooms 2nd Floor
    7:30 am  –  4:00 pm
    Harbor Hospital
    3001 S. Hanover Street
    Baltimore, MD 21225
    North corridor lobby
    9:00 am  –  12 noon
    MedStar Federal Hill
    1420 Key Highway
    Baltimore, MD
    Community Room - 1st Floor
    7:00 am  –  5:00 pm
    MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    9000 Franklin Square Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21237
    MSFSMC Cafeteria
    9:00 am  –  12:00 noon
    Professional Services at White Marsh Building 1
    8020 Corporate Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21234
    9:00 am  –  12:00 noon
    Pulaski Park MedStar Health Home Care and MPP Offices
    9601 Pulaski Park Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21220
    Conference Rooms A and B
    1:00 pm  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar SiTEL
    3007 Tilden Street, NW
    Suite 3L
    Washington, D.C., 20008
    Pacific Conference Room, 3rd Floor
    1:00 pm  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Family Choice
    5233 King Ave
    Baltimore, MD
    4th Floor Conference Room
    9:00 am  –  12 noon
    MedStar Health Home Care Southern MD
    4601 Powder Mil Rd, Suite 500
    Calverton, MD 20705
    5th Floor Conference Room
    1:00 pm  –  4:00pm
    MedStar Health - Corporate Columbia
    10980 Grantchester Way
    Columbia, Maryland 21044
    Conference Room 7D
    8:00 am  –  11:00 am
    MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    2000 N. 15th Street
    Arlington, VA 22201
    Suite 327/328
    1:00 pm  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Lafayette
    1133 21st Street, NW
    Washington, D.C.,
    5th Floor Conference Room
    7:30 am  –  3:00 pm
    MedStar Georgetown University Hospital - Main Campus
    3800 Reservoir Road NW
    Washington, D.C., 20057
    Leavy Center: Salons A,B,C
    7:00 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    110 Irving Street, NW
    Washington, D.C., 20010
    7:00 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar National Rehabilitation Network
    102 Irving Street, NW
    Washington, D.C., 20010
    Dining Room Atrium
    7:00 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
    5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
    Baltimore, MD 21239
    Coffee Shop Lobby
    10:00 am  –  2:00 pm
    Bel Air MACC
    12 MedStar Blvd
    Bel Air, MD 21015
    Community Room, 1st Floor
    7:00 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
    201 E. University Parkway
    Baltimore, Maryland 21218
    33rd Street Bldg, JPB Hallway
    9:00 am  –  12:00 noon
    MedStar Health Research Institute University Town Center
    6525 Belcrest Road
    Hyattsville, MD 20782
    3rd Floor
    1:00 pm  –  4:00 pm
    Brandywine MACC
    13950 Brandywine Rd.
    Brandywine, MD 20613
    Community Room
    7:30 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar St. Mary's Hospital
    25500 Point Lookout Road
    Leonardtown, MD 20650
    7:00 am  –  4:00 pm
    MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital
    7503 Surratts Road
    Clinton, MD 20735
    Hospital Library
  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    On November 9, join us at the MedStar Health Research Institute (MHRI) Administrative Office at University Town Center at 8 am to learn about resources available for research at MedStar.

    MHRI offers a one-day orientation session focused on conducting research within MedStar Health. This orientation session is for both experienced and early-career investigators who wish to learn more about the services and resources available through MHRI for every stage of the research lifecycle.

    This interactive session covers multiple topics, including the following:

    • An overview of the core business and research support services available to you;
    • Importance of the scientific center administrator/principal investigator relationship;
    • Tips, roles, and responsibilities for the successful conduct of research;
    • Research development support services and tools;
    • Answers to the most frequently asked compliance questions; and
    • MHRI best practices for effective proposal preparation and submission. 

    Thursday, November 9
    8:00am – 3:30pm
    MHRI Administrative Offices at University Town Center
    6525 Belcrest Road, Suite 700
    Hyattsville, MD 20782

    Please email to RSVP.
    Note: breakfast and lunch will be provided.

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    Applications open for the 10th class of Teaching Scholars at MedStar Health

    In this program, clinician educators from across MedStar Health are taught how to apply research principles to medical education; become informed consumers of the medical education research literature; be effective collaborators in medical education research; and develop as leaders in academic medicine. Graduate medical education program directors, core clinical teaching faculty, clerkship directors and other clinician educators (with limited research training or experience) in all specialties and professions are encouraged to apply. Applications are due on Friday, October 20.

    Learn more about the program at

    Apply today at

    Applications open for the 5th class of Research Scholars at MedStar Health

    The MedStar Health Research scholars programs aids in the development of a cadre of future academic leaders from disciplines across the entire system. Ideal Research Scholar applicants are early career MedStar clinicians seeking to develop significant personal scholarship in clinical or translational research, but with limited research experience, or with research experience in another field. A commitment to conducting mentored clinical or translational research with the ultimate goal of progressing to scholarly independence is the cornerstone of this program. Applications are due on Monday, November 13.

    Learn more about the program at

    Apply today at

  • September 29, 2017

    By MedStar Health Research Institute

    In support of patient safety and as the trusted leader in caring for people and advancing health, all MedStar Health associates, physicians, residents, students, volunteers, contracted staff, and vendors are required to receive the influenza (flu) vaccination. This year’s vaccination period is Sunday, October 1, through Thursday, November 30.

    Vaccination of associates reduces the risk of transmitting the flu virus to patients since healthcare workers are frequently linked as the source of flu in healthcare settings. You could have no flu symptoms and still be a carrier, unknowingly spreading it to patients, fellow co-workers, visitors, and your family.

    Did you know more than 870,000 patients within Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region receives care from a MedStar Health facility each year? If all of us are vaccinated, the chances of the flu spreading significantly decrease.

    MedStar is committed to making the influenza vaccine as accessible to you as possible. We will continue to provide the vaccine at MedStar entities free of cost for associates, physicians, residents and volunteers.

    Obtain your free flu vaccination from:

    • All Occupational Health offices across the system
    • Unit rounds in high-volume patient care areas
    • Peer immunizers
    • Clinics scheduled at various sites
    • MedStar Health Urgent Care locations

    Locations, dates and times for entity clinics will be posted on StarPort at

    Note: A valid MedStar ID must be presented to receive a free flu vaccination. PromptCare offices will submit documentation to Occupational Health.

    If you choose to be vaccinated outside of MedStar, you must complete and submit official documentation to Occupational Health (letterhead, prescription form, printed receipt) from the provider administering the vaccine. Documentation must include:

    • Associate's name
    • Date of vaccination
    • Name, dose and lot number of vaccine
    • Name, address and phone number of provider

    We recognize that a small percentage of associates may not be able to receive the flu vaccination because of medical contra-indications and/or religious exemptions. The Influenza Vaccine Exemption Form must be submitted to Occupational Health by October 31, 2017. To obtain an Influenza Vaccination Exemption Form or for more information about influenza vaccinations, visit

    Thank you for your continued commitment to the health and safety of our patients and associates.