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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

All Blogs

  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in December 2018. The selected articles and link to PubMed provided below represent the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates and published in peer-reviewed journals last month. The list is compiled from PubMed for any author using “MedStar” in the author affiliation. Congratulations to this month’s authors. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    View the full list of publications on here.

    1. Evaluating the Impact of Personalized Stroke Management Tool Kits on Patient Experience and Stroke Recovery
      Journal of Patient Experience, 2018. DOI: 1177/2374373517750416
      Pascual KJ, Vlasova E, Lockett KJ, Richardson J, Yochelson M.
    2. Inhaled Antibiotics for the Treatment of Pneumonia
      Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, 2018. DOI: 1097/MCP.0000000000000557
      Schreiber MP, Shorr AF.
    3. Evaluation of Cytokine Profiles in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients with Clinically Active Disease and Normal Inflammatory Indices
      Clinical Rheumatology, 2018. DOI: 1007/s10067-018-4379-5
      Alex AM, Sayles H, Mikuls TR, Kerr GS.
    4. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement and Surgical Aortic Valve Replacement: Both Excellent Therapies
      Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, 2018. DOI: 1016/j.jtcvs.2018.07.065
      Edelman JJ, Thourani VH
    5. The Impact of In-Hospital P2Y12 Inhibitor Switch in Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome
      Cardiovascular Revascularization Medicine, 2018. DOI: 10.1016/j.carrev.2018.09.007
      Gajanana D, Weintraub WS, Kolm P, Rogers T, Iantorno M, Buchanan KD, Ben-Dor I, Pichard AD, Satler LF, Thourani VH, Torguson R, Okubagzi PG, Waksman R.
  • January 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    This presentation will discuss the recent scientific advances that affected the results of the 2018 cyclosporiasis outbreak investigations and the scientific gaps that remain major public health and regulatory challenges for FDA.

    Cyclospora cayetanensis has emerged worldwide as a significant foodborne pathogen, causing a diarrheal illness called cyclosporiasis. In the United States, C. cayetanensis has caused large and complex outbreaks, which were mainly linked to consuming imported fresh produce like cilantro. In 2018, multiple outbreaks of cyclosporiasis linked to different produce were identified. The number of outbreak cases was higher than in previous years, with a total of 2,299 laboratory-confirmed, domestically acquired cases of cyclosporiasis reported from 33 states.

    The two major cyclosporiasis outbreaks investigated in 2018 were associated with fresh produce vegetable trays produced by Del Monte and a variety of salads sold at McDonald’s restaurants. During the 2018 investigations, both imported and domestic fresh produce samples were tested for the presence of Cyclospora cayetanensis, using a validated laboratory method. These analyses confirmed the presence of the parasite in domestic and imported fresh produce. This was the first time in many years, that FDA has used a validated method to detect C. cayetanensis in foods in support of surveillance assignments and outbreak investigations.

    Presented by
    Alexandre daSilva, PhD
    Senior Biomedical Research Microbiologist
    FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
    Parasitology Laboratory

    Thursday, January 10, 2019  
    12:00 p.m.‒1:00 p.m.

    Learn more and register here.

    The FDA Grand Rounds is webcast every other month to highlight cutting-edge research underway across the Agency and its impact on protecting and advancing public health. Each session features an FDA scientist presenting on a key public health challenge and how FDA is applying science to its regulatory activities. The 45-minute presentation is followed by questions from the audience.

  • January 03, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Everyone wants to keep up with news in the ever-growing healthcare industry, which is why our blog team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center provides people in the Washington, D.C., area health tips and breaking news to keep them informed of the latest and most relevant healthcare news and information.

    In 2018, we published over 200 healthcare news stories and reached over one million readers. The following are the five stories that received the most views. Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2019 from all of us at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

    The Top Stories of 2018

    1. Why is HPV-Related Head and Neck Cancer Surging among Young Adults?

    Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. and can cause common symptoms such as coughing up blood, difficulty or pain with swallowing, and difficulty speaking or changes in a person’s voice. As HPV surges in head and neck cancers among young people, Dr. Matthew Pierce explains who is at risk and how we treat these cancers. Learn more.

    2. How Bystanders Can Stop Severe Bleeding after Traumatic Injury

    Imagine walking to the bus on your way to work or going for a morning walk and you spot an individual on the ground with blood pooling under their leg. Your first reaction likely is figuring out how you can help. In this blog, Dr. Jack Sava, chief of Trauma, discusses how everyday people can learn to stop blood loss after traumatic injury and save lives, and how knowing how to do so is as important as understanding CPR. Learn more.

    Bystanders can stop severe bleeding after traumatic injury by one person immediately calling 911 and another person applying pressure to the wound, according to one of @MedStarWHC’s top blogs of 2018.

    Click to Tweet

    3. Acid Reflux? Bloating? It Could Be a Paraesophageal Hernia

    A paraesophageal hernia is one of the most common types of hernias and can have symptoms as simple as acid reflux or feeling bloated after a small meal—or no signs at all. Fortunately, once spotted, there are plenty of treatment options available. Dr. John Lazar discusses the treatments and how a paraesophageal hernia is diagnosed. Learn more.

    4. Sudden Hearing Loss is a Medical Emergency: What Patients Need to Know

    As many as 5,000 people experience sudden hearing loss every year in the U.S., which can be frightening and emotional. In this blog, Dr. Selena Briggs explains what people should do when they experience sudden hearing loss—which often is because of upper respiratory tract infections or viruses—and how early, specialized treatment can help restore your hearing. Learn more.

    5. Hernia Repair through Keyhole Incisions? How Robotic Surgery Works

    Hernias can occur in the abdomen, groin, thigh, belly button, upper stomach or in previous surgical incision site. And, unfortunately, when hernias block off blood supply to an organ or interferes with its function, they can cause symptoms ranging from fever, nausea, and pain at the site. In this blog, Dr. Elizabeth Zubowicz explains how treatments such as minimally invasive and robotic surgery are safe, effective options for people who wish to treat hernias. Learn more.

    You Tell Us: What was your favorite blog of 2018? Let us know why you enjoyed it on our Facebook or Twitter page.

    Stay on top of healthcare news.

    Subscribe to our blog today

  • January 02, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Whenever we eat or drink, we’re putting the pancreas to work. The pancreas is a large gland that’s tucked behind the stomach and the intestines. It has two jobs: to produce chemicals called enzymes that help the body digest food and to produce hormones that help the body regulate blood sugar.

    In people who have a condition called chronic pancreatitis, the pancreas becomes inflamed and doesn’t work like it should anymore, even after treatment. This can lead to serious—even life-threatening—problems without specialized care. It’s important to understand the symptoms and risk factors, so you can reduce your chances of developing the disease or better manage it if it’s already developed.

    LISTEN: Dr. Patel discusses chronic pancreatitis in the Medical Intel podcast.

    What are the symptoms of chronic pancreatitis?

    The most common symptom of pancreatitis is severe pain in the upper belly. This pain may go through the body and into the back. When the pancreas isn’t working correctly, the body can’t break food down properly, and so patients often report nausea and vomiting. The body realizes it can’t digest what you’re consuming, so it gets rid of whatever you put in. Some people also report diarrhea and oily stools.

    In severe cases, pancreatitis attacks can lead to unintended weight loss and severe dehydration, made worse by the fact that you may not be able to drink water and get rehydrated without vomiting again. If you notice these symptoms, get to an emergency room as soon as possible for treatment.

    Without proper care, chronic pancreatitis can lead to serious problems, such as severe pain and malnutrition. Over the long term, people with this condition are at risk for developing diabetes and pancreatic cancer.

    Who is most at risk for chronic pancreatitis?

    Having acute pancreatitis in the past, especially if you’ve had it multiple times, can increase the risk for chronic pancreatitis. However, the main risks for chronic pancreatitis are drinking too much alcohol and smoking cigarettes.

    The main risks for chronic #pancreatitis are drinking too much #alcohol and #smoking cigarettes. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Alcohol damages the pancreas, and too much alcohol can cause the pancreas to become scarred and inflamed over time. Researchers aren’t yet sure of the exact mechanism behind smoking’s effects on the pancreas, but it’s believed that the body’s white blood cells are drawn to the pancreas to remove toxins there after inhaling cigarette smoke. Over time, this inflammatory response causes the pancreas to become damaged and scarred.

    Genetic factors can increase your risk of developing chronic pancreatitis. Cystic fibrosis, a disorder that damages the lungs and digestive system, is one of the most common hereditary causes of chronic pancreatitis. Having a family history of conditions affecting the pancreas also can increase your risk.

    Chronic pancreatitis treatment options

    The symptoms caused by chronic pancreatitis are similar to those of other medical conditions, so it’s important to get help from a center that has expertise in the kind of diagnostic testing needed to identify these disorders. We’ll start with a full physical exam, including your history of symptoms and any family history of pancreatic conditions. If we suspect pancreatitis, you may need blood tests to measure the level of digestive enzymes your pancreas is producing, as well as urine and stool tests.

    Imaging tests, such as magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, or MRCP, can give us views of the pancreas, gallbladder and other areas. Your doctor also may order a test called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, which uses a long, flexible tube called an endoscope placed down the throat and into the stomach and small intestine to see what may be causing your symptoms.

    If we find that you have chronic pancreatitis, it’s something you’ll have to manage for the rest of your life. The pancreas is permanently damaged, and it can’t heal itself. So you’ll have to take steps to reduce the stress placed on the pancreas. Two steps I urge my patients with this condition to take are to stop drinking alcohol and stop smoking cigarettes.

    You’ll also likely need ongoing treatment to make up for your lowered pancreatic function. If the pancreas doesn’t create enough enzymes to help with digestion, your doctor can prescribe medications called pancreatic enzyme supplements. These medications, which you take with food, act almost like a replacement pancreas and help the body get the nutrients it needs from food. I’ve had patients with severe chronic pancreatitis who have seen dramatic improvements to the quality of their lives once they started taking this medication.

    But if that’s not enough, we do have other options. Patients who have severe pain or uncontrolled diabetes or weight loss and who don’t see any improvement after enzyme-replacement therapy may benefit from surgical treatments, such as a pancreas transplant.

    You also may be a candidate for a procedure called autologous islet-cell transplant. This procedure involves a surgical team removing the pancreas and, in the laboratory, removing the cells that produce insulin and implanting them in the liver. There, the cells function normally and produce insulin as if they still were in the pancreas. Our sister hospital, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, is a known center of excellence for this treatment.

    Chronic pancreatitis can have serious and long-lasting effects. But with lifestyle changes and effective treatments, patients with this condition can reduce their pain and live a more normal life.

    If you think you may have chronic pancreatitis or another condition affecting the pancreas, call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

    Request an Appointment

  • December 28, 2018

    By MedStar Health

    Although the holidays can serve as fun times to catch up with family and friends, many people experience increased depression during the fall and winter months. In fact, we see additional people during these months each year at MedStar Health who feel down or sad because:

    • They feel as though everything has to be perfect
    • They feel pressure to purchase gifts
    • They have to celebrate the holidays after the loss of a loved one
    • The days are shorter and nights are longer
    • The lack of sun

    Making an effort to speak about your feelings to friends and family can alleviate some people’s symptoms, but others require additional help. Read on for tips to help conquer seasonal depression this holiday season.

    #SeasonalDepression can be especially prominent during the #Holidays. Here are six tips for alleviating symptoms via @MedStarHealth.
    Click to Tweet

    How to alleviate depression during the holidays

    1. Exercise

    Running or brisk walking can help reduce some symptoms of clinical depression because exercising:

    • Increases blood flow to the brain
    • Releases endorphins, or your body’s own natural antidepressant
    • Increases self-confidence
    • Occupies your mind elsewhere

    A good goal is to exercise 30 minutes a day, four days a week.

    2. Get enough sleep

    Insomnia is very common among depressed patients— in fact, evidence suggests that people with insomnia have a tenfold risk of developing depression compared to those who report they regularly get a good night’s sleep. I always suggest that people get at least eight hours of sleep per night.

    3. Get some sun

    A lack of sunlight seems to affect people’s brain chemicals, according to researchers. In fact, people with seasonal affective disorder feel better after exposure to bright light, especially in the mornings. Taking a walk, when the sun is out, before or after work is a great way to soak in some sunshine.

    4. Spend time with others

    Loneliness and depression often go hand-in-hand. Planning game nights or dinners with friends and family is one of the easiest and most effective ways to confront loneliness. Volunteering with a local organization is another great way you can get out and enjoy yourself. An added bonus? Studies show that individuals who give show reduced stress and increased feelings of reward in their brain imaging.

    5. Focus on happy moments

    We see many people who are experiencing the holidays, often for the first time in many years, without a loved one. We suggest taking time to remind yourself of all the good times you had with your loved one during the holidays, rather than mourning the loss. The more you reverse the sad thoughts to positive ones, the easier it will become.

    6. Take time to appreciate what you have

    It can be easy to get wrapped up in figuring out the perfect holiday plans and picking out the perfect gifts. However, it’s important to take a step back to remember to be thankful for what you do have, whether it’s extra time to spend with your loved ones or enjoy some of your favorite activities. Setting your expectations abnormally high can take the joy away from things that normally would make you happy.

    The holidays come and go each year, and it’s important that we remember key ways to maintain our happiness, especially if we find ourselves more prone to depression during these times. These tips aren’t a replacement for medical care, so be sure to seek medical attention if you’re struggling to alleviate your sadness.

    Want to learn more about overcoming holiday stress or seasonal affective disorder? Watch the video below.

  • December 26, 2018

    By Ravi Agarwal, DDS

    Some people feel uncomfortable smiling for the camera because of a missing front tooth or have trouble eating because of a lost back tooth. The most common treatment for these patients is a dental implant, as it can replace a person’s missing tooth—often for a lifetime.

    Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that are similar in shape to screws. When dental implants are implanted into the jawbone, natural bone bonds to them and creates a base that supports artificial teeth, such as crowns, bridges, and dentures.

    People have successful dental implants and tooth replacements every day. We saw one man who fell while on a vacation and lost a few of his front teeth. When he visited us for treatment, he appeared timid and afraid to smile. After he received dental implants and artificial teeth, however, he seemed like a completely different person—beaming with confidence and chatting with our team members. It seemed to give him a new lease on life.

    LISTEN: Dr. Agarwal discusses dental implants in the Medical Intel podcast.

    Who’s a Candidate for a Dental Implant?

    People who want a single tooth replacement generally are the ones who most often receive dental implants. However, we’re starting to see more people who need all their teeth replaced with dentures or failing dentition, which is when patients have had a lot of work done to their teeth and their fillings or crowns are starting to fail. It can become so expensive to repair all of these issues that replacing the teeth is the better option. We work with all of our patients to help come up with the best solutions.

    Additionally, we’ll see teenagers who naturally are missing a front tooth and elderly patients who had dentures for 15 years and say they want to smile or chew better.

    #Dentalimplants are great for replacing missing teeth or stabilizing loose dentures. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    How Do Dental Implants Work?

    Dental implants are placed in four simple steps. A surgeon usually:

    1. Makes an incision in the gums to access the bone
    2. Creates space in the bone to anchor the screw that’s put in, using specialized equipment
    3. Closes the gums back up with dissolvable stitches
    4. After the implant heals, your dentist fabricates your replacement teeth

    Most dental implants are done in as little as 30 minutes. During the first consultation, we gain an understanding of what patients’ expectations are. Some patients experience anxiety about the procedure. As a result, we offer patients anesthesia and medications to help alleviate their concerns. For all patients having dental implants, we coordinate and work closely with their dentist to make sure they have the best outcomes.

    What Can I Expect During Recovery?

    Dental implants usually have an easy recovery. Patients can expect to experience some pain for a few days, so we recommend they use over-the-counter pain medication. Furthermore, we ask patients to avoid consuming hard, crunchy foods and foods with extremely hot or cold temperatures for one day while their new tooth recovers.

    Avoiding infection also is critical, so we’ll ask patients to continue brushing their teeth regularly and prescribe them antibiotics. Recovering from a dental implant generally takes only a few days, so many people have the procedure at the end of the week and return to work and their daily activities by Monday.

    Experts in Care

    Our program dedicates one and a half days a week to dental implants. One of the unique aspects of our program is that every patient gets both a surgical and prosthetic consultation. This means patients can discuss both the look of their new tooth as well as the operation itself with an expert.

    Our program has opinion leaders in the field of dental implants who train and teach other doctors around the country about protocols developed at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. We’re on the cutting edge of digital technology, having virtual implant planning, in-house 3D printing that helps us know exactly where to place the dental implant, and implant navigation equipment. All of these technologies allow us to reduce treatment time, minimize errors, and provide new teeth on the same day as surgery. Even better, we provide this advanced care at a reduced cost when compared to many other medical providers.

    Many tooth-replacement methods have existed over the years, but dental implants generally have the highest success rates. Why go through the stress of having trouble eating or feeling less confident when smiling?

    Call 202-877-3627 or click below to make an appointment with an oral surgeon.

    Request an Appointment