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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:
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    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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  • January 07, 2019

    By Taryn E. Travis, MD

    It might seem unusual at first to think of a doctor using laser therapy to treat a burn injury scar. Why would burning the body’s tissue further help a patient heal? But lasers are an extremely valuable tool in treating patients’ scars.

    Doctors first began improving the appearance of scars with laser therapy in the 1980s, and their use has only grown since. Our colleagues in plastic surgery and dermatology use lasers for cosmetic procedures all the time. The main difference is that we are trained to use these lasers at a much higher power level, specifically targeting the thick tissue associated with cutaneous scars. Our lasers could never be used for cosmetic procedures at the same settings as they are for scar treatment, as it would result in major damage to the patient.

    The high price of laser equipment can be a major obstacle for centers that want to offer laser scar revision. Some burn centers rent lasers and use them once a month for patients who are interested in revision therapy, but that limits the number of appointments they have available for treatment. Through generous philanthropy provided by our supporters, we are fortunate enough to own our laser scar revision equipment, allowing us to treat many patients every week. In our Burn Center, we use the power of lasers to improve both the functionality and appearance of scar tissue for our patients, a combination that can’t be found from those who only treat how scars look.

    The layered effects of scar tissue

    To understand how lasers help us treat scars, it’s helpful to understand how a scar forms in the first place. When you suffer a burn or another traumatic injury to the skin, your body devotes a huge portion of its resources to a single goal: getting that wound closed fast.

    When the body accelerates the healing process for burned or damaged skin, you don’t get organized, neatly stacked cells and collagen like you have in healthy skin. Instead, you end up with a mix of cells and collagen piled into a thick, stiffened scar. These scars can come with a number of side effects, including:

    • Limited movement, especially when scars extend over a joint
    • Itchiness
    • Pain
    • Unpleasant appearance

    The idea behind laser scar revision is that when the body isn’t actively battling the burn or injury, it can devote more time and resources to remodeling a scar properly instead of just quickly. To make this happen, we have to replace that thickened scar tissue first.

    Laser power for scar treatment

    Our carbon dioxide laser, which targets water in the scar tissue, gives the body a second chance at wound healing. We use a fractional ablative laser, which means only a fraction of the laser’s target is touched by its beams.

    The beams of the fractional ablative CO2 laser typically target one to five percent of the patient’s scar tissue during each laser scar revision session. That’s large enough for us to make progress with the patient’s scar but small enough to avoid creating new wounds for the patient. The laser creates microscopic tunnels in the scar tissue that are replaced with regular tissue so that, over time, the dense scar tissue gives way to more normal skin. Some patients report easier movement or decreased pain after just one treatment. The total course of laser therapy might take three to 12 monthly visits, depending on the severity of the patient’s scar and the improvements they want to see.

    #Laser #scar revision can shrink and soften thick #scars, often making them less painful and easier to move after the first treatment. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Another scar revision technique we use is intense pulsed light, or IPL. The goal of this treatment is to further improve the appearance of patients’ scars. Though this isn’t a true laser, it uses light to target two substances in scar tissue that affect how scars look:

    • Hemoglobin, a substance in blood vessels and red blood cells that makes scar tissue look red
    • Melanin, the component of skin cells that gives them their color, and can create darkened scars

    Using IPL, we can destroy hemoglobin and melanin in scars to fade the tissue and make blend better with the surrounding normal skin. IPL won’t completely remove scars from skin grafts, burns, or other serious wounds, but it can lead to huge improvements in the quality of our patients’ lives.

    Is laser scar revision right for me?

    Aside from burns, laser scar revision can help patients with a wide range of scars, including those from traumatic injuries. For example, I worked with a patient who’d had painful dog bite scars over a large area of her body since childhood. She found success with laser therapy after plastic surgery and steroid injections didn’t achieve the results she wanted. We’ve also treated patients who wanted to improve the appearance of scars after major surgeries, such as thyroidectomies and skin grafts following soft-tissue infections.

    Related reading: 6 non-heat injuries that burn center doctors should treat

    Laser therapy also can be effective to treat wounds that haven’t healed fully. Especially in patients who have suffered large burns, it’s common for us to see wounds with thick, tight scar tissue that constantly pulls the wound apart and prevents it from closing. This leaves a small ulcer in the center of the wound, which increases the patient’s risk for infection. By using the laser on the scarred areas, we often can relieve the tension on the tissue, allowing the wound to close and heal.

    Potential risks of laser scar revision

    As with any procedure, some patients might experience complications from laser therapy. These minor issues don’t render a patient ineligible, but we have to ensure patients understand the risks before proceeding:

    • Prior chemotherapy with certain older drugs: Older patients who have had cancer may have been treated with chemotherapy drugs that included gold particles, and our lasers sometimes can react with the gold to turn the skin dark in those areas.
    • Personal or family history of vitiligo: This skin condition causes discoloration in various areas of the skin. The laser can activate vitiligo in someone who has a dormant case of the condition.
    • Herpes simplex infection: The laser can activate dormant herpes infections, such as cold sores or genital herpes. We can provide a dose of antiviral medication before a treatment to reduce this risk.

    What to expect

    If you are interested in learning more about laser scar revision surgery, we invite you to come to The Burn Center for a consultation. At your visit, we will discuss the above issues, as well as your goals and priorities for treating your scar. You will have a pre-laser scar assessment with one of our burn rehabilitation therapy team members to measure factors such as the color and stiffness of your scar prior to treatment.

    On the day of your procedure, you will be treated in the operating room with members of the burn surgery team and anesthesia staff. Patients return home the same day of surgery, and most are back to work or school the next day. You will have a check-up appointment one to two weeks after your procedure to re-measure the color and stiffness of your scar and to gauge any improvement you may have seen. From there, you and your provider will make plans to do additional laser sessions, usually spaced four to six weeks apart.

    Painful, itchy, or tight scar tissue can make life more difficult for patients as they recover from burns or traumatic injuries. With laser scar revision, we have another tool available to relieve their pain, restore motion, and improve the quality of their lives.

    Interested in laser scar revision?

    Connect with our team today.

    Call 202-644-9526 or Request an Appointment

  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    In December, MHRI associates took some time out of their busy schedules to celebrate the successes of 2018 with their fellow associates. These events are also our opportunity to recognize associates with milestone years of service with MedStar Health.

    Hosted at three locations by the Associate Engagement Committee, each celebration brought together leadership and associates to embracing our theme, “MHRI…Where Everyone is a STAR!” This year, there was a "Wall of Fame" for associates to choose from a variety of superlatives that would compliment a fellow associate or manager. We got competitive in a game of trivia that challenged our knowledge of MedStar, movies, acronyms, and random facts.  The events also featured our service award presentations and our wonderful raffle and associate gifts!  

    Thank you to all of our MHRI Stars, who shine effortlessly on a daily basis and help make a difference in the lives of our patients and the organization they represent.

    Many thanks to all the associates who assisted with planning, set-up, and clean up at each location. Your efforts made the events a success! Thank you to all the associates who brought a donation for Dr. Bear’s Closest at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., More than 75  toys were donated to help children and their siblings celebrate this season.

    Congratulations to our service award recipients for your years of dedicated service to MedStar. Your work and support allow us to continue our commitment to advancing health in our community.

    30 Years of Service
    Barbara Howard

    25 Years of Service

    • Joan Bardsley
    • Michelle Magee
    • Kristin Brandenburg
    • Donna Whitman

    20 Years of Service

    • Maureen McNulty
    • Becky Montalvo
    • Susana Shapiro
    • Karen Wade

    15 Years of Service

    • Jennifer Latteri
    • Kathryn Bailey
    • Inger Ljungberg
    • Pamela Chapman

    10 Years of Service

    • Angela Thomas
    • Candice Vance

    5 Years of Service

    • Cynthia Yashinski
    • Clayton Bourges
    • Bonnie Carney
    • Meseret Deressa
    • Robin Edelberg
    • Alton Henry
    • Roshila Mohammed
    • Rizwan Sabir
    • Kassaye Sesaba
    • Maria Hurtado
    • Emily Paku
    • Michelle Laubach
    • Sarah Wright-Gaul
  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Every year, thousands of runners across the U.S. complete 5K races, which is equivalent to 3.1 miles.

    Most people who are new to running shouldn’t just step out the door and attempt to run a 5K. Doing so can put you at risk for injuries, dehydration, and feeling like a failure if it doesn’t go right from the get-go.

    In fact, it takes the average person about four to eight weeks to get in shape with a 5K training program. As you get ready to start your own 5K training regimen, consider these three key ways to prepare for the challenge.

    Preparing for a #5K? Discover three tips from #SportsMedicine expert Dr. Matthew Maxwell, via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog.
    Click to Tweet

    1. Eat a Proper Diet

    Before You Run

    Prior to running a 5K, fuel your body with foods that include carbohydrates and protein, which will provide the energy you need to get through the run.

    Hydration is also key. Try to drink half your body weight in ounces of water—for example, if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water before running. Your gender, age, and how much you sweat can influence how much water you need, so it’s important to monitor how often you urinate and the color of your urine. If you are adequately hydrated, you should be urinating about once every two to four hours and it should be clear or pale yellow in color.

    During and After Your Race

    Consider carrying a healthy snack or drink with sugar in it during your run in case you need a quick energy boost. Consuming fruit, such as bananas and raisins, or alternating between Gatorade and water is a good way to do this. Once you’ve completed your run, drinking chocolate milk can help refuel you, providing protein to rebuild and repair your muscles and sodium to help with hydration.

    In addition, try different foods during training to see what works best for you, then stick with those foods during the race.

    You tell us: Do you have any go-to snacks for when you do 5Ks or long-distance running? Tell us about them on Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #LiveWellHealthy.

    2. Perfect Your Form

    Very few people run with ideal body mechanics, or placement of the arms, legs, and joints during exercise. You can test your running form with a video gait analysis from a sports medicine expert to examine the various angles of your ankles, knees, hips, and back.

    Common problems we see in runners with poor form are they:

    • Run either too fast or slow
    • Lean too far forward when running
    • Run with too large of a stride

    Many of these problems can increase your risk of knee, ankle, and hip injuries and plantar fasciitis. Learn about common running injuries and how to address them.

    3. Practice Outside, Preferably on the Course

    Training indoors on a treadmill can provide similar conditioning to outdoor running. However, there are advantages to hitting the road. Running outdoors can help you get used to the wind, rain, and heat you might face on race day, and it can help you learn to develop a comfortable, efficient pace.

    Preparing for a 5K often dictates how well you perform. We hope these tips help you successfully complete your 5K injury-free.

    Discover how our sports medicine experts can help you train for your next 5K by visiting one of our Running Injury Clinics.

    Learn More

    Are you preparing for your first 5K race? Watch our Ready to Race series below to help you get started.


  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Research Grand Rounds: Translational Science Approaches to the Study of Aging and Neuroinflammation—February 1, 2019

    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.

    “Translational Science Approaches to the Study of Aging and Neuroinflammation”
    Dennis Taub, PhD
    Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Translational Studies, Washington D.C., VA Medical Center

    February 1, 2019
    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

    For more information on this and other Research Grand Rounds, please contact The webcast of the Research Grand Rounds is archived on the GHUCCTS website. Presentations are uploaded approximately 30 days from the event. View past presentations here.

  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Recently published research from the team at the Curtis National Hand Center explored an important component of treating finger hyperextension by studying the effect of increasing graft size during surgical treatment and repair.  The study sought to help surgeons understand how large a hemihamate graft can be used for reconstruction before having a negative impact on the joint motion of the finger.

    Finger hyperextension happens when fingers are bent backward and overstretch the ligament. This type of injury can happen frequently in sports, but also as a result of a fall. Less severe injuries can be treated through rest, ice, and compressions, but injuries that are more extreme may require surgery.

    “The Relationship Between Hemihamate Graft Size and Proximal Interphalangeal Joint Flexion for Reconstruction of Fracture-Dislocations: A Biomechanical Study” was published in the Journal of Hand Surgery (American). The research team included River M. Elliott MD, Suresh K. Nayar MD, Aviram M. Giladi MD, MS, Christopher L. Forthman MD, Brent G. Parks MS, and Kenneth R. Means, Jr., MD from the Curtis National Hand Center at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital.

    There are several surgical procedures for finger fracture-dislocations, hemihamate arthroplasty (HHA) being one of the favorable options to treat this type of injury when primary repair isn’t possible. There are a few disadvantages to using HHA, but technical difficulty remains a large hurdle to its use. Using a larger graft can diminish some of the difficulties of the surgery, which can increase its usage and positive patient outcomes.

    The research team simulated middle finger fracture-dislocations by cutting 50% of the palmar surface of the middle finger base in cadaver hands. A graft was harvested from the bone situated on the lower outside edge of the hand to reconstruct the volar lip of the middle finger joint and was downsized by 2-mm increments for each trial. Fluoroscopy and digital imaging software were used to measure maximum motion and bending for each graft size.

    The study concluded that nonanatomical hemihamate grafts produce a significant biomechanical flexion block only at extreme sizes. The research team suggests not sizing the graft more than 3-mm beyond the normal sized middle finger volar lip in order to avoid a significant impact on finger flex. These findings may make HHA a less technically challenging procedure for clinicians, as larger grafts are less inclined to fracture and can tolerate more robust and repeated fixation if needed. This can have positive implications for patient outcomes in the future.

    This study was funded by The Raymond M. Curtis Research Foundation, The Curtis National Hand Center, Baltimore, MD.

    Journal of Hand Surgery (American), 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2018.09.017

  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    We are pleased to announce the 2019-2021 cohorts of the MedStar Health Research and Teaching Scholars!

    The MedStar Research Scholars program supports the development of MedStar clinicians who seek careers with a focus on clinical and translational research, in large part by addressing the need for research mentorship and critical feedback in project design, analysis, and presentation. MedStar Health Research Institute, MedStar Health Academic Affairs, and the Georgetown-Howard Universities Center for Clinical and Translational Science offer this research career development program to clinical and junior research colleagues.

    New Research Scholars

    Pashna Munshi, MD (Hematology/Oncology), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    Yasar Torres-Yaghi, MD (Neurology), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    Ankit Shah, MD, MPH, FACC (Medicine), MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

    The MedStar Teaching Scholars program is a two-year longitudinal program leading to Medical Education Research Certification (MERC) and Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) certification. The program is led by MedStar Health Academic Affairs and MedStar Health Research Institute, in conjunction with the Association of American Medical Colleges, and has been in place since 2009.

    The heart of the program is teaching clinician educators from across MedStar Health how to apply research principles to medical education; become informed consumers of the medical education research literature; to be effective collaborators in medical education research; and to develop as a leader in academic medicine. GME 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.

    New Teaching Scholars

    Sharmila Mohanraj, MD (Infectious Diseases), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    Virginia Malatack, MD (Internal Medicine), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    Konstantinos Loupasakis, MD (Medicine/Rheumatology), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Clint Pettit, MD (Palliative Care), MedStar Washington Hospital Center
    Maria Felton, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP (Palliative Services), MedStar Union Memorial Hospital
    Elizabeth Chawla, MD, FAAP (Pediatrics), MedStar Georgetown University Hospital
    Heather Hartman-Hall, PhD (Medicine), MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
    Selena Briggs, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS (Otolaryngology), MedStar Washington Hospital Center

    Congratulations to the new scholars for 2019-2021!