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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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  • April 12, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Kenneth Fan, MD, recalls when Plastic Surgery’s ability to make a difference in a patient’s life truly hit home. On a medical mission to Haiti, while attending the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, he treated a 35-year-old man who, shamed by a severe cleft lip, had been relegated to life as a recluse. On a subsequent visit to Haiti two years after the procedure, the patient was, figuratively speaking, a new man.

    “From the moment I met him again, he had gone through a complete transformation,” Dr. Fan says. He had gone to college to become an English translator, volunteering time for the program. He had gotten married and was getting ready to start a family. It was evidence of how plastic surgery can bring patients a new sense of wholeness.”

    Advancing Plastic Surgery Research

    Since coming to Washington, D.C., for his residency at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, the southern California native has pursued an active research agenda, to identify and build upon innovative ways to effect similar transformative results in other patients, particularly those facing post-cancer breast reconstruction procedures.

    “A plastic surgeon is the ‘finisher,’ the last stop on a patient’s sometimes difficult route to recovery,” says Dr. Fan, who now practices at Medstar Washington Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. He adds that while he was drawn to plastic surgery in part for the high level of technical expertise required, “there’s no one set answer to achieve a solution. And I get to stay engaged with the patient afterward, something I really enjoy.”

    Benefits of Enhanced Recovery After Surgery

    Dr. Fan’s recent work with Enhanced Recovery After Surgery and Anesthesia (ERAS) protocols has focused on minimizing and even eliminating the use of narcotics following breast reconstruction procedures, speeding patients’ recovery and with substantially less post-op “grogginess.” For example, microsurgical breast reconstruction with abdominally-based free flaps typically requires week-long hospital stays, sometimes in the ICU. Using the ERAS multimodal, multidisciplinary approach to pain management, the use of narcotics has been significantly reduced.

    "Patients are walking by post-op day one or two, and going home by post-op day three,” says Dr. Fan, who considers ERAS “a real game-changer,” for improving patients’ recovery from procedures that can be both physically and emotionally challenging.

    “To be able to take the fear out of the postoperative recovery, and to assure patients we are able to manage pain effectively, is by far the most rewarding aspect of this project,” he says. “We are changing the culture of microsurgical breast reconstruction, from a historically challenging recovery, to one of ease and comfort. We hope patients are going to be able to select the right reconstruction for them, without having to consider severe pain and discomfort in their difficult time.”

    Outside of Work

    Given his many other research pursuits—improving health literacy to improve post-op breast reconstruction, reducing barriers to reconstructive surgery among underserved communities, microsurgical correction of lymphedema and other topics that have led to over 140 peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and presentations at scientific meetings —it’s a wonder Dr. Fan finds time for himself.

    “Early mornings in the gym are my favorite time, because it’s usually just me,” he says. Dr. Fan also enjoys reading, traveling, and playing with his German Shepherd, Flora.  He is also a self-described “foodie,” and enjoys trying different cuisines and restaurants.

  • April 12, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    When springtime rolls around, many people are ready to take their exercise-related New Year's resolutions to the next level through new exercises or sports. However, this can cause many individuals to start doing things their bodies aren’t prepared for—think of someone going for a five-mile jog after not running all winter.

    As a result, many people, ranging from high school students to the elderly, visit us with foot and ankle problems, such as:

    • Achilles tendonitis
    • Inflammation of tendons and ligaments in the foot and ankle
    • Plantar fasciitis
    • Severe ankle sprains

    The most common complaints include pain, swelling, and difficulty bearing weight. Read on to learn tips to help you prevent foot problems from developing.

    When springtime comes around, many people jump into physical activity too fast, which leads to #FootPain and #AnklePain. Learn tips to help you prevent these injuries via @MedStarHealth. #LiveWellHealthy

    Click to Tweet

    How to Avoid Foot and Ankle Problems

    1. Wear the Proper Shoes

    It’s important to wear shoes that fit your foot properly—especially for people who put fashion before comfort. Make sure you try shoes on in the store, and walk around for more than just a minute or so to see if you experience any discomfort. Everyone’s foot has its own unique profile, and you should take the time to find the shoes that feel best on your feet. Your ultimate goal should be to match comfort and fit with the fashion you’re looking for.

    Foot orthotics that go into your shoes also can help alleviate foot and ankle pain in some cases. Speak to your doctor to discover whether these devices are right for you.

    2. Stretch Regularly

    As we age, we become less flexible. A lack of flexibility can lead to a number of foot and ankle problems such as Achilles tears, ankle sprains, and plantar fasciitis. It’s important to maintain flexibility by working out and taking the time to stretch every day. A simple 10-minute stretching exercise each day could help you avoid foot and ankle problems related to flexibility. Some common exercises we recommend include:

    • Gastroc towel stretch: Sit down with your legs straight in front of you and loop a towel around your feet. While holding the two ends of the towel, gently pull on the towel, lifting your foot toward you. Hold the position for 30 seconds and do three repetitions.
    • Gastroc uni standing stretch: Stand facing the wall and place your hands on the wall. Step forward with your uninvolved foot, leaning hips towards the wall. Keep rear leg straight with your heel on the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds and do three repetitions.
    • Soleus standing stretch: Stand facing the wall and place your hands on the wall for support. Place your left foot in front of the right. Slowly bend your knees while keeping your heels on the floor, until you feel the stretch. Repeat with your right leg in front. Hold the position for 30 seconds and do three repetitions.

    3. Listen to Your Body

    It’s important to listen to your body as you exercise. I often see patients who have picked up a new activity, such as running, martial arts, or basketball, and within a few weeks, they develop a foot or ankle problem they’ve never experienced before. It’s important to gradually ease yourself into new activities to avoid setbacks. If you constantly feel foot or ankle pain after a new activity, work on improving your flexibility or consider switching to a different activity. If you have discomfort that goes away within a day or two, that’s normal. But if you’re limping after a couple of days, you may be exceeding what your body can handle for that particular activity.

    4. Work on Your Balance

    Similar to flexibility, balance declines as we age—especially for those over the age of 70. Poor balance increases your risk of falling and developing foot and ankle problems. One common exercise to improve balance is a one-legged balance—this is when you take turns picking up one foot with your knee facing forward or to the side and hold the position for 10 to 20 seconds. Try doing four reps on each foot. Speak to your doctor to learn more activities that can improve your balance.

    It’s common to develop foot and ankle problems, especially as you age. Make sure you use these tips to help you prevent any avoidable issues down the road.

    Are you suffering from a foot or ankle injury? Don’t ignore it – click below to learn how our orthopedic experts can help you at the Foot and Ankle Clinic at MedStar Health at Lafayette Centre.

    Learn More

  • April 09, 2019

    By Krishnan Venkatesan, MD

    Getting circumcised often is associated with baby boys. However, many people are surprised to learn that adults can request the procedure. In fact, at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we perform somewhere between 50 and 100 adult circumcisions each year.

    Adult circumcision is a reconstructive procedure that removes excess foreskin from the shaft of the penis. Because most American men are circumcised, those who aren’t can feel self-conscious, as they worry whether their partners find it unusual. Furthermore, some skin conditions can lead to an adult circumcision, including:

    • Genital warts: When large or multiple warts develop on the foreskin, circumcision is the preferred approach.
    • Lichen sclerosus: An immune-mediated skin condition, this can cause scarring of the foreskin and cause the skin to become tight around the shaft and head of the penis, which can result in infections.
    • Phimosis: When foreskin tightens and traps urine underneath the skin, it can lead to inflammation or an infection on the head of the penis or skin, or in the urinary tract.

    We saw one man who was in his 50s and experiencing tight penis foreskin, frequent infections, and phimosis. He received a circumcision and shortly after was infection- and symptom-free—just a month after surgery.

    LISTEN: Dr. Venkatesan discusses adult circumcision in the Medical Intel podcast.

    How are Adult Circumcisions Performed?

    During a circumcision, two parallel incisions are made around the penis—one upstream from the skin that’s set to be removed and one downstream. Then, we unwrap the excess skin from the penis and sew the two remaining edges back together.

    Most often, we see men in their late teens or early 20s who are first moving out on their own or becoming sexually active. After the minimally invasive surgery, recovery is very manageable. Men considering a circumcision should consult with their urologist to fully understand the procedure and what to expect during recovery.

    What Can I Expect During Recovery?

    Following surgery, patients can immediately urinate on their own. Recovery usually involves some activity restrictions, however. For example, patients must refrain from sexual activities for about four weeks while the stitches and incisions heal. They also should avoid any heavy exercise for the first two weeks to avoid sweating and putting strain on the incision to ensure it heals properly.

    Basic pain medication and antibiotics are given to patients after surgery, but they usually only need them for one week. After that, they’re usually back to work and doing most of their everyday activities.

    After an adult #circumcision, men usually are off of basic pain medication and antibiotics and back to work within a week, says Dr. Venkatesan. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Are There Any More Risks if I Don’t Get Circumcised?

    Not being circumcised thankfully doesn’t have any other concrete risks, outside of increasing the likelihood of skin conditions. However, evidence does suggest that circumcisions before puberty might decrease the risk of penile cancer (although it is very rare to begin with).

    Furthermore, circumcisions sometimes are used outside of the U.S. to prevent HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. But there’s no compelling evidence that they reduce the risk.

    At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we’re experts in caring for men who seek a circumcision, because we’re a referral center that routinely sees patients with complex skin conditions. Due to the number of patients we treat with adult circumcisions, we truly offer advanced, results-tested care.

    Adult circumcisions occur quite often in the U.S. Whether it’s because of appearance concerns or the result of a medical condition, expert treatment is available for you and your family.

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a urologist.

    Request an Appointment

  • April 05, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Organized by the Department of Continuing Professional Education, MedStar Health is offering a variety of CE conferences this spring that provide an opportunity to gain knowledge of new treatments and techniques and network with leaders in the field through interactive case studies and presentations. MedStar associates may earn CE credits and discounted registration is available. For more information and to stay up to date, please visit

    2019 Comprehensive Stroke Symposium: A New Era of Acute Stroke Care - May 3-4
    Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center, Rockville, MD
    Course Co-Directors: Richard T. Benson, MD, PhD; Rocco A. Armonda, MD
    *NEW! MedStar Associates save 50% on registration with promo code: STROKEMS

    Frontline Cardiology 2019: Cardiovascular Care in the Community - May 18
    College Park Marriott
    Course Directors: Caroline I. Valdiviezo, MD; Allen J. Taylor, MD; Sriram Padmanabhan, MD; Course Co-Director: James C. Welsh, MD, MBA, MPH
    MedStar Associates can attend for FREE with code: FC2019MS.

    Updates in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases 2019 - May 4
    Ritz-Carlton, Tyson’s Corner
    Course Directors: Nidhi Malhotra, MD; Mark C. Mattar, MD
    MedStar Associates can attend for FREE with code: IBDM

    Abdominal Wall Reconstruction - June 6-8
    Grand Hyatt Washington, D.C.,
    Conference Chair: Parag Bhanot, MD; 
    Course Directors: Karen Kim Evans, MD; Jeffrey E. Janis, MD; William H. Hope, MD
    MedStar Associates pay $100 with code: AWR100

    Mid-Atlantic Ovarian Cancer Symposium 2019 - June 15
    Bethesda Marriott
    Course Directors: Paul Sugarbaker, MD; Lana Bijelic, MD; Louis A. Dainty, MD

    FALL 2019

    MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute Symposium 2019 – September 14
    Washington Marriott Georgetown, Washington, D.C.,
    Course Directors: Thomas M. Fishbein, MD; Basit Javaid, MD, MS; Rohit S. Satoskar, MD; Matthew Cooper, MD; Stuart S. Kaufman, MD

    SAVE THE DATE (Registration Coming Soon)

    Gastric and Soft Tissue Neoplasms 2019
    September 21; Park Hyatt Washington, Washington, D.C.,

    Adult Congenital Heart Disease 2019 – October 4-5
    Bethesda Marriott
    Course Directors: Anitha S. John, MD, PhD; Melissa H. Fries, MD

    Autoimmune Disorders of the Brain: Beyond PANDAS/PANS –  October 5
    Washington Marriott Georgetown, Washington, D.C.,
    Course Directors: Earl H. Harly, MD; Heidi J. Appel, MD; M. Elizabeth Latimer, MD

    Gastroenterology for the Primary Care Provider 2019 – October 12
    Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.,
    Course Directors: James H. Lewis, MD; Caren S. Palese, MD
    Course Co-Directors: Nadim G. Haddad, MD; James C. Welsh, MD, MBA, MPH

    For more information and to stay up to date, please visit

  • April 05, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health strives to provide associates with the tools and learning opportunities to succeed in the ever-changing healthcare industry. To accomplish this, associates are encouraged to take advantage of MedStar’s Educational Assistance program and unique partnerships with local universities and colleges, including Georgetown University. 

    The Georgetown University’s Executive Masters and Certificate programs address the growing need for sustainable improvements in patient safety and quality education. Through these valuable opportunities, students learn from national experts who have shaped the patient safety and quality landscape, and collaborate with other learners within the healthcare industry.

    Executive Masters Program in Clinical Quality, Safety and Leadership

    • Immerse yourself in advanced theory and concepts of healthcare quality, patient safety science, and organizational leadership
    • 16-month online program, with a four day onsite networking opportunity held at Georgetown University in D.C.
    • Full-time or part-time enrollment available

    Executive Certificate in Patient Safety and Quality

    • Practice fundamental concepts of systems-thinking, improvement science, and data collection, organization, and analyses
    • Six-month online certificate

    Executive Certificate in Healthcare Safety and Leadership

    • Gain insight on how to become a leader in an ever-changing healthcare system
    • Six-month  online certificate 

    Learn more about the programs and apply online.

    Note: Participation in Georgetown University’s Executive Masters and Certificate programs may be eligible for Educational Assistance. Refer to your entity’s policy for more information.