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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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  • August 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    10 research scholarships have been awarded, supported by MedStar Health Research Institute and Georgetown University, via its Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI) through the “CERSI Scholars” program. The 10 scholars are early career investigators who are committed to public health and are actively pursuing research, education or training in regulatory science.

    CERSI Scholars receive mentoring from Georgetown University and MedStar Health faculty who are actively engaged in regulatory science research. The scholars also receive research stipends of up to $5,000, to be applied toward related research activities, such as consulting services to support ongoing projects, fees associated with peer-reviewed publication, or travel costs to conferences to present research results.

    MedStar Health is proud to be home to the following scholars:

    • Zach Hettinger, MD, MS, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, MedStar Health
    • Jennifer Purks, Clinical Trials Manager, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital/Huntington Disease Care, Education, and Research Center, Georgetown University Medical Center
    • Erica Savage, Project Manager, National Center for Human Factors in Healthcare, MedStar Health
    • Rebecca Torguson, Director, MedStar Cardiovascular Research Network, MedStar Health

    The 10 scholars and their profiles can be viewed on the CERSI website. Congratulations to all of the recipients.

  • August 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    A MedStar health services researcher has been awarded a $100,000 Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) Health Policy Research Scholar Grant to study the effect of payment reform in emergency departments.

    Jessica E. Galarraga, MD, MPH, Attending Physician, MedStar Emergency Physicians, and Clinical Instructor, Georgetown University School of Medicine will be working on her project, “An Evaluation of a Payment Reform Experiment: The Effects of Global Budgets on Emergency Department Admissions and Associated Healthcare Costs,” at MedStar Health and the Georgetown University School of Medicine. This grant is in addition to the New Investigator Grant that she received from MHRI, as announced in June 2016.

    “The state of Maryland has embarked on a payment reform experiment which aligns the financial incentives of hospitals with the incentives of population health to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital setting in an effort to control the trends in health care spending,” said Dr. Galarraga. “This all-payer, global budget revenue (GBR) model incentivizes hospitals to minimize hospital admissions per given year and become cost-efficient in the care of admitted patients. If the new financing structure introduced by the GBR program is successful at reducing hospitalization rates, the leading source of national health expenditures, then this bold payment reform model in Maryland may become the precedent for addressing the healthcare cost dilemma for the rest of the country.” She hopes that her “research will introduce a foundation of understanding for emergency department (ED) providers on how the GBR model impacts ED care and may uncover the potential need for improved outpatient resources to balance quality patient care in the ED with the financial incentives of a GBR model.”

    The EMF has awarded more than $13.8 million in research grants since its founding 1972 by visionary leaders of the American College of Emergency Physicians. The mission of the EMF is to promote education and research that improves patient care, provide the basis for effective health policy and develop career emergency medicine researchers.

    The goals of the Health Policy Research Scholar Award Program, funded by the Emergency Medicine Action Fund, is to promote research on health policy affecting emergency care; to answer topical health policy questions affecting emergency medical care; to facilitate the academic growth, advanced education, and development of future leaders in emergency care health policy; and to invest in the future of the specialty of emergency medicine.

    Congratulations to Dr. Galarraga!

  • August 07, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all researchers who were published in July 2016. There were 73 peer-reviewed studies published in 61 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. Effect of adding insulin degludec to treatment in patients with type 2 diabetes inadequately controlled with metformin and liraglutide: a double-blind randomized controlled trial (BEGIN: ADD TO GLP-1 Study).
      Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 2016. DOI: 1111/dom.12661
      Aroda VR, Bailey TS, Cariou B, Kumar S, Leiter LA, Raskin P, Zacho J, Andersen TH, Philis-Tsimikas A
    2. Targeted therapies in thyroid cancer: an extensive review of the literature.
      Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, 2016. DOI: 10.1080/17512433.2016.1204230
      Bikas A, Vachhani S, Jensen K, Vasko V, Burman KD
    3. Combined Subcutaneous Heparinization and Negative Pressure Wall Suction as a Mechanical Adjunct for Digital Replant Salvage.
      Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery—Global Open, 2016. DOI: 1097/GOX.0000000000000829
      DeFazio MV, Economides JM, Paryavi E
    4. Body mass index association with survival in severe aortic stenosis patients undergoing transcatheter aortic valve replacement.
      Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions, 2016. DOI: 1002/ccd.26377
      Koifman E, Kiramijyan S, Negi SI, Didier R, Escarcega RO, Minha S, Gai J, Torguson R, Okubagzi P, Ben-Dor I, Satler LF, Pichard AD, Waksman R
    5. A framework for evaluating electronic health record vendor user-centered design and usability testing processes.
      Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 2016. DOI: 1093/jamia/ocw092
      Ratwani RM, Zachary Hettinger A, Kosydar A, Fairbanks RJ, Hodgkins ML

    View the full list of publications on here.

  • August 03, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    For men approaching the age of 40, as well as those who have already crossed that milestone, prostate cancer is one of the most talked-about health issues today. Prostate cancer is diagnosed more frequently than skin cancer and is second only to lung cancer in leading causes of cancer death in men. And according to a recent study from Northwestern University, more men than ever before are being diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, where the cancer has spread to another place in the body, speaking to a need for “nationwide refinement” around prostate screenings and treatments.

    Stark as these numbers may be, don't let such information frighten you. Prostate cancer is not only common, it’s also treatable with an early diagnosis.

    Who Is at Risk for Prostate Cancer?

    The average age for a prostate cancer diagnosis in men is 66 years old, and it is not seen typically before the age of 40. It should be noted, however, that African-American men represent a high-risk group for prostate cancer and are 1.6 times more likely to receive such a diagnosis than a Caucasian male. Also, they are more likely to develop prostate cancer at a younger age, with a higher rate of mortality.

    While there are different schools of thought around why African-American men are more prone to prostate cancer, including differences in tissue genetics, nothing has been proven with any certainty to date.

    What Treatment Options Are Available?

    The mortality rate for prostate cancer is approximately one in 39 men, which speaks to the fact that treatment of the disease at an early stage can prevent prostate-cancer related death. Various treatment options exist, including surgical removal of the prostate (prostatectomy), radiation therapy or cryotherapy.  These options will be reviewed by a multidisciplinary team with expertise in each modality, with the choice of treatment being individualized for each patient’s specific case. 

    No matter the course chosen, early detection is the key to reducing the risk of death from prostate cancer. Once it has spread to a patient’s lymph nodes or bones, the cancer becomes more difficult to treat. (Although in those cases, chemotherapy and hormone therapy may still be able to help extend the life of a patient.)

    It’s Treatable When Caught Early

    Since early detection is so critical to the treatment of prostate cancer, one of the most common questions men have is when - or how often - they should be screened. Screening options include a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

    If you’re in a high-risk group - either due to age, family history or other factors - you should speak with your doctor about what is best for you, as there is uncertainty around whether the risk of unnecessary treatment is outweighed by the potential benefits of screening.

    Life After Prostate Cancer

    Men who undergo successful treatment for their prostate cancer can be left with some degree of erectile dysfunction or problems with urination. The good news is that treatments exist for these problems and can help prostate cancer survivors maintain fulfilling, active lives with maintained, positive outcomes for their urinary and sexual health.

    While the prospect of a prostate cancer diagnosis can be stressful, know that it is common and treatable. So with early detection, you can spend more time being focused on treatment and recovery.

    Have questions?

    We are here to help! If you have any questions about MedStar Washington Hospital Center, call us at 202-877-3627.

  • August 02, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week!

    This week, the Midwives of MedStar are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-August 7. This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding: A key to Sustainable Development,” aims to raise awareness not only about the significant maternal and infant health benefits of breastfeeding, but also its advantages for a healthy planet.  While the marketplace may try to convince you otherwise, all a mother and baby really need to breastfeed is one another.  Certainly breast milk pumping and storage generates some consumer products and waste, but much less than what is associated with using breast milk substitutes.  Breast milk also is free and is always the right temperature for your baby.

    One of the best ways to ensure you achieve your breastfeeding goals is to begin the conversation about how you will feed your baby with your partner and your provider early in your pregnancy.  Did you know that the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond infancy? In addition to providing disease-fighting antibodies, and all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first few months of life, babies who are breastfed have lower risks of asthma, lower respiratory infections, eczema, diarrhea, type II diabetes, childhood obesity and SIDS.  As for mom, it also lowers the risk of postpartum depression, anxiety, certain breast cancers and ovarian cancer.

    At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, all nurses who work with new mothers and infants receive 20 hours of breastfeeding specific education and skills development.  We also have lactation consultants who help you and baby get off to a good start.  More important, the hospital has adopted the 10 best practices recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to support breastfeeding mothers and infants, including immediate skin to skin time after delivery.

    It’s not unusual for some mothers who start the process of learning to breastfeed to feel nervous and tentative.  Yet with knowledgeable and support, these hesitant starts quickly blossom into successful feeding rhythms with a confident mother and content, healthy baby.

    For moms returning to work, be sure to review your insurance coverage.  Many plans under the Affordable Care Act cover electric breast pumps (with many covering lactation services as well). A good rule of thumb is to begin pumping about two weeks before returning to work, so the baby can get used to eating from a bottle and you can begin to build up a supply of stored breast milk.

    Did you know that workplaces are required by law to provide adequate time and a clean, private place to pump (bathrooms don’t count). Ensure you have a refrigerator or cooler to store the breast milk until you return home.

    Need more information? Check out the upcoming Baby Care & Breastfeeding Basics, District of Columbia Breastfeeding Resource Guide, the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington, La Leche League and the World Health Organization for more information.

    World Breastfeeding Week is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).

    Happy breastfeeding!

    Have Questions?

    Please call the Midwives of MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 202-877-2303 and ask to speak to a nurse coordinator.

  • July 28, 2016

    By Alexander Geboy,MS

    hep-C-infographicWorld Hepatitis Day was celebrated this week, a day set aside to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, which affects 400 million people worldwide. It also marks a historic moment for the hepatitis community – the launch of NOhep, the first global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis.

    In the United States, it is estimated that between 2.5 million and 4.7 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C (HepC), a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that anyone of any age with high risk behaviors such as current or past injection drug use should get HepC tested once yearly. They also recommend baby boomers or people born from 1945 to 1965 should be tested at least once for HepC due to high prevalence. Baby boomers are five times more likely to have HepC, and most of them don’t know they are infected. 

    HepC has been called a “silent epidemic” because most people with the disease don’t know they are infected. Over time, HepC can cause inflammation and gradual liver fibrosis or scarring, which can lead to cirrhosis. It is also a leading cause of liver failure, liver cancer, liver transplantation and liver-related death. And according to a recent CDC article, more people die each year from HepC than from 60 other infectious diseases, including HIV. Yes, HepC kills more people each year than HIV.

    For the African-American community, HepC is a relevant yet neglected disease. In fact, HepC is more prevalent among African Americans than among persons of any other racial group in the nation. And although African Americans represent about 13 percent of the overall U.S. population, estimates suggest they represent around 22 percent of all HepC infections. Additionally, African-American baby boomers have twice the rates of HepC infection as other baby boomers. This picture is equally revealing at the hospital level. In a recently published article in the journal Public Health Reports, we found a HepC prevalence rate of nine percent among baby boomers within MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Primary Care Clinic. This was significantly higher than the U.S. prevalence of 3.3 percent and the D.C. prevalence of 2.5 percent (among all ages). Within this group, the HepC positive rate among African-American men was 16 percent, substantially higher than the CDC rate of eight percent.  

    So what does this mean, and what can you do? The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS launched the first National African-American Hepatitis C Action Day four years ago, with the intention of mobilizing the community to reduce the burden of HepC on the Black community, and impact a neglected health disparity by promoting education, testing, linkage to care and treatment. So for everyone, especially people of the African-American community, it starts with a test, it’s that simple. HepC is curable. CURABLE. But one of the biggest barriers to HepC elimination is a lack of identification.

    Lastly, but importantly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now covers the cost of a HepC antibody screening test – in a primary setting – if the following conditions are met:

    1. A screening test is covered for adults at high risk for HepC infection. “High risk” is defined as persons with a current or past history of illicit injection drug use; and persons who have a history of receiving a blood transfusion prior to 1992. Repeat screening for high risk persons is covered annually only for persons who have had continued illicit injection drug use since the prior negative screening test and have not been.
    2. A single screening test is covered for adults who do not meet the high risk as defined above, but who were born from 1945 through 1965.

    So take the HepC challenge and ask your primary care provider to be tested. If you are chronically HepC infected and not currently in care with a specialist (Infectious Diseases, Hepatology, or Gastroenterology), please contact the HepC Linkage to Care Navigation program at MedStar Washington Hospital Center for assistance.

    Phone: 202-877-0679 or 202-877-3296

    Email: or

    In this video, patient Sharon Billings kept her hepatitis C diagnosis a secret and lived in silence for 18 years. She shares her story of overcoming HepC.

    Have questions?

    We are here to help! If you have any questions about MedStar Washington Hospital Center, call us at 202-877-3627.

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