MedStar Health blog : MedStar Health

MedStar Health Blog

Featured Blog

  • 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

  • September 06, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Head and neck cancers include a range of conditions such as sinus cancer or cancers of the throat or voice box. What can make these tumors a unique challenge is that they are invariably located near areas where senses and critical functions take place.

    That means treatment of a tumor, whether through surgery or radiology, can impact a patient's ability to hear, see, smell or taste. More than that, it can impair a patient’s ability to swallow or speak. Working with a medical team that keeps all of these potential impacts in mind – and plans to avoid loss of functionality whenever possible – is important.

    But functionality isn't the only concern many head and neck cancer patients have. When treatments occur near the face, patients can be concerned about how they will look following surgeries.

    Some head and neck cancers do require aggressive treatment; surgery to treat severe sinus cancer, for example, could necessitate removal of an eye. When aggressive surgical treatment is unavoidable, it's important to work with a team that includes an experienced reconstructive surgeon to help maintain appearance. That experience, combined with modern treatment methods, can achieve remarkable results.

    Look for Experience and a Multidisciplinary Approach

    Patients who are facing decisions about treating head or neck cancer should look for providers that offer an unbiased approach to treatment. Each specialty provider  – such as a surgeon or a radiation oncologist – is trained in specific approaches and treatment methods. Without a balanced perspective, even medical providers can be somewhat biased in their approach.

    For example, our MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute team has met every week for over 20 years. Providers from a range of disciplines – for example, oncologists, surgeons and speech therapists – meet to discuss each active case, where treatment decisions are approached from a variety of perspectives. That's important not only for helping each patient make the best possible decision, but also for ensuring recovery is well planned.

    Experience is also important when choosing a medical team. Our head and neck cancer surgery team alone brings over 50 collective years to the table. That experience helps us understand the long-term impact of any decision made to treat cancer today.

    Talk to Your Providers About the Future

    The landscape of head and neck cancer is changing. There has been a significant increase in the incidence of throat cancers that are the result of a prior infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). These are often found in patients of middle age who do not have the classic throat cancer risk factors of chronic tobacco and alcohol use. The increased incidence of these tumors in otherwise healthy middle-aged patients is a major change in the field of head and neck cancer, but fortunately this new version of head and neck cancer has a high cure rate.

    Not only are the cure rates for these types of cancer high, these younger patients often are healthier and do not present other illnesses or conditions that would further complicate their diagnosis and treatment. When determining the best course of treatment, medical teams and patients must balance the expectation of high survival rates with the possible long-term consequences of treatment on swallowing, on dental status and on other quality of life issues years after successful cancer treatment.

    If both radiology and surgery are equally viable solutions, patients might choose radiation because they are afraid of surgery or there are more short-term disadvantages. However, radiation could lead to swallowing issues in 15 years, which might make surgery the better option in the long-term, for individual patients.

    Though there are others, these are a few of the variables requiring consideration that make an experienced, multidisciplinary team approach essential to successful treatment and preservation of function for head and neck cancer patients.

  • September 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Community Clinical Research Center (MCCRC) staff have randomized and enrolled their 150th D2d participant at MCCRC’s University Town Center location. The Vitamin D and Type 2 Diabetes (D2d) Study is a large, nation-wide, multi-site study, designed to determine whether high-dose vitamin D supplementation is safe and effective in delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes in people at risk. Additionally, the investigators will look to gain a better understanding of how vitamin D affects glucose metabolism. Participants are enrolled and then randomized to receive a placebo or vitamin D, with follow-up visits for up to four years.

    The D2d study is funded by the National Institutes of Health and is taking place in 22 sites across the United States. Since beginning enrollment screening in October 2013, the staff of MCCRC have screened 402 patients. By enrolling the 150th randomized patient, they have reached their study goal for enrollment. The D2d investigators hope to enroll approximately 2,400 patients across the country.

    The 150th participant, Edward Croft , pictured here with Veronica Rodriguez, Clinical Research Coordinator, and Vanita Aroda, MD, MHRI Principal Investigator, is the brother of Jean Flack, Clinical Trial Manager for Oncology Research in Baltimore. It is very meaningful that our own MHRI family is supportive of the research process, making personal referrals for study consideration. Dr. Aroda personally thanked the participant for his willingness to pose for this picture, to which he replied, “No problem – I’m part of the team now.”

    The D2d study is also being conducted at the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital in Baltimore, MD, with Jean Park, MD, and Adline Ghazi, MD, as co-investigators. MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital staff began enrolling participants in 2014 and is over 70% of the way to their goal. MedStar Health is a strong contributor to D2d, with enrollments that account for over 11% of all enrolled participants in this trial.

    MCCRC conducts multiple diabetes studies under the direction of with Dr. Aroda as the Scientific Director and Principal Investigator.

    Congratulations to the MCCRC D2d team!

  • September 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all researchers who were published in August 2016. There were 67 peer-reviewed studies published in 64 journals that are part of the body of work completed by MedStar Health investigators, physicians, and associates. We look forward to seeing your future research.

    Selected research:

    1. A comparison of the knowledge base and surgical skills of integrated versus independent vascular surgery trainees.
      Journal of Vascular Surgery, 2016. DOI: 1016/j.jvs.2016.02.050
      Macsata RA, Fernandez S
    2. mHealth Real-Time Blood Glucose Monitoring Facilitates Glycemic Management.
      Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, August 2016. DOI: 10.1177/1932296816662480
      Magee MF, Gourgari E, Youssef GA, Nassar CM.
    3. Genomic profiling of breast cancer in African-American women using MammaPrint.
      Breast CancerResearch and Treatment, August 2016. DOI: 1007/s10549-016-3949-y
      Nunes RA, Wray L, Mete M, Herbolsheimer P, Smith KL, Bijelic L, Boisvert ME, Swain SM.
    4. A Bipartisan Approach to Better Care and Smarter Spending for Elderly Adults with Advanced Chronic Illness.
      Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, August 2016. DOI: 1111/jgs.14177.
      Taler G, Kinosian B, Boling P.
    5. Redefining Healthy Urine: A Cross-Sectional Exploratory Metagenomic Study of People With and Without Bladder Dysfunction.
      Journal of Urology, August 2016. DOI: 1016/j.juro.2016.01.088
      Groah SL, Pérez-Losada M, Caldovic L, Ljungberg IH, Sprague BM, Castro-Nallar E, Chandel NJ, Hsieh MH, Pohl HG.

    View the full list of publication citations on here.

  • September 04, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    On Tuesday, August 9, Antoinette Newman, clinical research assistant in the Oncology Research department at MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC), was honored with the SPIRIT of Excellence Award.

    Neil Weissman, MD, president of MHRI, was on hand to present the award to Antoinette, after hearing remarks from Anna’s colleagues and managers on her dedication to her patients.

    Antoinette was nominated by Brandi Robinson, Program Manager, Oncology Research at MWHC, for her commitment and efforts to be a trusted resource and voice for her patients. Her patients routinely ask about her when they visit the clinic. Her commitment to patient health can be further seen in the weekend work she has done to accommodate patient schedules. Additionally, Antoinette has shown her innovation in recruiting minority patients, through her implementation of a care package delivered to potential trial participants.

    The SPIRIT Award is given to recognize and reward one associate (management or non-management) each quarter who excels in Service, Patient First, Integrity, Respect, Innovation, and Teamwork.

    To nominate a co-worker for a SPIRIT Award, fill out and submit the nomination form at

  • September 01, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Sarcomas are rare, only accounting for 1 percent of cancers diagnosed in adults. That means that many people don't learn about these cancerous tumors of the connective tissue unless they or a loved one have received a sarcoma diagnosis.

    Although there are dozens of different types of sarcoma, they can be grouped into two main kinds: soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, treatment options and challenges associated with this rare form of cancer.

    What to Know About Sarcoma

    Sarcoma does not always present with symptoms in the early stages or when located inside the abdomen, and only about half are discovered before they involve surrounding parts of the body. The symptoms that patients do notice vary based on the location of the sarcoma, the type of sarcoma and the presenting stage. At that point, the treatment plan has to be personalized to each patient, taking into account any presence of additional chronic disease or condition.

    The majority of sarcomas present in the extremities (arms and legs) or trunk, in which case you might see a lump that has been growing over time. The second most common type of sarcoma involves the retroperitoneum, an anatomical space located toward the back of the abdomen. With this type of sarcoma, the only symptoms experienced might be pain or possibly blood in a patient's vomit or stool.

    The survival rate of sarcoma depends largely on many factors, but importantly the sarcoma type, size, grade, location, and - of course - stage. For example, stage one with favorable features can have a 90-percent, five-year survival rate, while stage three can drop below a 56-percent, five-year survival rate. It should also be noted that the survival rate is higher when the sarcoma is found in the extremities.

    Sarcoma Treatment Options and Challenges

    The right treatment for sarcoma depends on several factors, such as the stage of the cancer, as well as its location and type. But generally speaking, surgical intervention and radiation therapy are the most common courses of treatment. In addition, chemotherapy may be leveraged as a treatment strategy, either before or following surgery, as a means to shrink the tumor or prevent further spreading of the cancer.

    Despite the generally positive outcomes for most sarcoma patients, the journey of treatment is not without challenges. Sarcoma tends to present slightly in extremities and can be located close to joints, blood vessels or critical nerves. This means a doctor needs to be able to remove the entire sarcoma without leaving the patient with a nonfunctioning extremity.

    By contrast, it’s harder to detect it in the retroperitoneal or abdominal areas. Patients may be bloated or simply think they’ve gained weight, so they might put off going to the doctor. In some cases, the only time the doctor detects sarcoma in the abdomen is when the patient has a CT scan for a different reason.

    Sarcoma Treatment and Recovery Is About the Patient

    If you or a loved one is diagnosed with a sarcoma, it is important to seek out a specialty center with an expertise in sarcoma. This is especially true since there are over 50 types of sarcoma. In addition, you should engage specialists that have the experience necessary to not only identify the stage of cancer upfront, but also determine the right sequence of treatments.

    Most of all, the right physician will understand the needs and desires of the patient come first, down to the sequence and length of treatments, and should make it clear that this is a journey that you are all on together.

  • August 31, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Each of our nursing associates at MedStar Washington Hospital Center has a unique story about what drew them to nursing