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

  • May 18, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Managing Gestational Diabetes Yields Long-Term Benefits

    Christine Leonard is the proud mother of three sons. With each child, she developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, which meant her blood sugar levels were too high. For Christine, she knew it was critical to eat right, exercise and carefully monitor her condition to have a healthy pregnancy.

    “Each time, I was diagnosed early,” says Christine. “I was just very diligent about everything and made some lifestyle modifications."

    Even after Christine delivered, it was important for her to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and here's why:  It is estimated that up to 10 percent of women with gestational diabetes are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes soon after delivery. Over 10 years, the risk can increase up to 50 percent.  But the risks can be mitigated if preventative screenings are scheduled. Yet too many women are skipping the required postpartum glucose tolerance test, usually given to women 6 to 12 weeks after they’ve delivered. Recent studies show that up to 50 percent of patients do not show up for this important test.  The low compliance is likely because too many women are overwhelmed after bringing home a newborn baby and simply forget.

     Dr. Sara Iqbal, a high-risk Obstetrician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center says, “Educating the patient and providing test reminders is essential in order to improve the rate of testing postpartum."

    During her pregnancy, Christine followed the sound advice she received from Dr. Iqbal and to this day remains vigilant about her dietary changes.

    “She was my model patient as she made the lifestyle changes that I asked,” says Dr. Iqbal. “This is very important because having gestational diabetes puts her at high-risk for developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.”

    Dr Iqbal advises patients to:

    • Watch food portions and caloric intake
    • Avoid gaining too much weight as obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes
    • Continue to exercise
    • Follow up for the postpartum glucose tolerance test
    • Have your blood sugar levels tested every one to three years, depending on the glucose tolerance test results

    “When I delivered my baby, the diabetes went away soon after, but I will be really aggressive about monitoring for the rest of my life,” says Christine.

    From past experience, Christine knows that diabetes is easy to treat when caught early, before complications can occur, and most important, understands that Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by simple, easily applicable lifestyle modifications. 

    Have any questions?

    We are here to help! If you have any questions about your pregnancy or would like to speak with a member of our Women's and Infants Services team call MedStar Washington Hospital Center at 202-877-3627.

  • May 17, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Morton’s Neuroma

    Whether you’re a runner pounding the pavement or a fashionista balancing on sky-high heels, your feet are taking a beating. And when they’ve had enough, they fight back.

    Increasingly, their weapon of choice is Morton’s neuroma—an otherwise harmless cyst that causes numbness, shooting or burning pain in the ball of your foot. It’s the result of repeated irritation or compression of a nerve or nearby tissue, usually between the second or third toe.

    The good news is that the pain and discomfort from Morton’s neuroma can go away with proper treatment, including some simple remedies you can try at home:

    • Take over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling
    • Soak the sore foot in alternating baths of comfortably hot and cold water
    • Wear full-length, OTC arch supports with a solid shell
    • Give your feet a break from high-impact activities and high heels

    If the problem persists, foot specialists typically prescribe injections of cortisone or alcohol solution to reduce swelling; custom orthotics to correct foot mechanics and separate the toes; and/or physical therapy. Surgery—once the standard approach—is reserved for only the most extreme cases.

    To find a MedStar physician, please call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Katherine Raspovic, DPM

    Katherine Raspovic, DPM

    Think you might have Morton's neuroma? Call to schedule a consult with a specialist. 202-877-3627.


  • May 16, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    By Leslie A. Whitlinger

    When Alecia Benjamin was diagnosed with a relatively rare type of blood cancer, multiple myeloma, in 2015, she wasn’t about to gamble with her health. The resident of the U.S. Virgin Islands traveled stateside on two separate occasions to get second opinions.

    One of them was a referral to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, where its life-prolonging Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant (BMT) Program gave Alecia the second chance she hoped for.

    “Once considered experimental, BMT is today’s established gold standard for treating patients with a number of malignant and benign diseases of the blood and bone marrow, including multiple myeloma, lymphoma, and acute and chronic leukemia,” says Scott Rowley, MD, MedStar BMT program director. “For some conditions, it can actually be a cure; for others, it definitely prolongs survival and improves quality of life.”

    Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer that resides in the bone marrow, eventually leading to anemia, kidney failure, bone loss and other serious conditions. The cancer affects approximately 30,000 new patients in the United States each year.

    Altogether, approximately 85,000 individuals are afflicted with the disease.

    A transplant involves a two-step process: collecting bone marrow-like cells from the patient’s blood stream and storing them for future use. A week or so later, cancer patients will receive high doses of chemotherapy to destroy their disease. Afterward, the previously stored cells are infused back into the bloodstream, where they soon begin repopulating and rebuilding the blood and immune system.

    Alecia, 75 at the time, went through a comprehensive evaluation to see if she was eligible for BMT. To her surprise, she qualified.

    “Some of my other doctors thought that BMT was still experimental or that I wouldn’t be a candidate because of my age,” Alecia says. “But it turns out that neither is true.”

    Those are common misconceptions among patients and physicians alike, notes Alecia’s physician, David H. Vesole, MD, PhD, director of MedStar Georgetown’s Multiple Myeloma Program.

    “Even though BMT is considered standard therapy for myeloma worldwide, in the United States less than 50 percent of the patients who could benefit from BMT are referred for evaluation,” Dr. Vesole says. “That’s mostly due to physicians’ concerns that a patient is too old or compromised from other health conditions like diabetes, cardiac disease or renal failure. But new techniques and better supportive care have improved both patient outcomes and the entire transplant process, extending BMT to more patients than ever before.”

    Alecia’s procedure took place on November 17, 2015, a red letter day for both her and the hospital: She celebrated her 76th birthday, and MedStar Georgetown celebrated Alecia as their 50th BMT patient.

    From start to finish, BMT patients may take weeks to a couple of months to achieve full recovery. However, virtually all patients feel it’s worth it.

    “I decided if BMT could prolong my life a little, why not go through with it?” Alecia says. “If it works, I will be happy and enjoy a bit more of life.”

    By all accounts, Alecia’s been doing just that. After her BMT, she recuperated with family members in Accokeek, Md., spending Christmas with her grandchildren before returning to the Virgin Islands on New Year’s Day. In early March, she saw her granddaughter get married in St. Thomas. By mid-March, Alecia was back at MedStar Georgetown for her 100-day follow-up appointment where she received good news: Her cancer was in complete remission.

    “I had a very good experience with BMT,” she says. “I’m feeling almost normal again!”


    Make an Appointment

    To learn more or make an appointment with a bone marrow transplant specialist, please call our scheduling line. 

    For Referring Physicians

    Our Bone Marrow & Stem Cell Transplantation team works with referring physicians to provide advanced, comprehensive care for our patients. We are the only adult academic blood and marrow stem cell transplant program in the Washington, D.C., area.

    Our affiliation with the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center gives our patients access to the latest, most innovative treatment options available.


  • May 16, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Specialized Burn Treatment

    The summer season brings a greater risk of burn injuries, with fireworks, bonfires and grills being some common culprits. In fact, 73% of Burn Center admissions in the U.S. are from incidents like these, that happen at home.

    Burns are commonly misdiagnosed and the risk of subsequent complications is high. These injuries can drastically change over the course of 24 to 48 hours. What may have begun as a relatively minor burn can quickly progress with serious complications, including organ failure or loss of limbs.

    Without expert evaluation and diagnosis, burns may not get sufficient attention. Immediate treatment and frequent monitoring can improve the chances of survival. Burn specialists are uniquely qualified to diagnose severe injuries and treat them accordingly.

    If a burn looks any worse than a basic, pink sunburn, it should be seen at a designated Burn Center, not an urgent care clinic or local emergency department.

    MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Burn Center:
    Decades of Distinguished Care, from Injury through Rehabilitation

    The Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center is the only adult burn treatment center in the Washington metropolitan area, serving the District, southern Maryland, northern Virginia and eastern West Virginia.

    The 20-bed facility meets stringent criteria for qualification by the American Burn Association. It features a multidisciplinary team approach to burn care that provides comprehensive services for patients from injury through initial rehabilitation.

    To find a MedStar physician, please call


    As heard on WTOP Radio:

    Jeffrey Shupp, MD

    Meet Jeffrey Shupp, MD
    Director, Burn Center


  • May 16, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    Living Liver Donor Diana Rotter saved baby Diana by donating 20% of her liver.
  • May 16, 2016

    By MedStar Health

    The Region’s Busiest Level I Trauma Center

    In the heart of the nation’s capital, MedStar Washington Hospital Center’s Level I Trauma Center has responded to thousands of medical crises, including treating patients of the September 11th terrorist attack on the Pentagon, and victims of the Navy Yard shootings.

    MedSTAR Trauma (Medical Shock/Trauma Acute Resuscitation) is the regional referral center for critical multiple trauma, treating individual victims of traumatic injury and the multiple victims of mass trauma occurrences.

    The Level I designation ensures constant readiness of multidisciplinary teams and resources, along with a transport network that is capable of reaching patients wherever they are.

    LISTEN: What Makes MedStar Washington Hospital Center a Level I Trauma Center as Heard on WTOP Radio.

    MedSTAR Fast Facts:

    • Verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level I facility, providing the top level of trauma care
    • Evaluates 2,200 to 3,000 patients with severe and multiple system injuries each year
    • An internationally respected multidisciplinary team of trauma experts, including a trauma surgeon, emergency physician and many others
    • 24/7 access to a the hospital’s diverse team medical and surgical specialists
    • Serves as a referral center for a 150 mile radius of the hospital, receiving crucial trauma patients from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania
    • Air and ground transportation via MedSTAR Transport bringing patients from referring hospitals and from the site of the injury
    • More than 50,000 patients airlifted by MedSTAR helicopter transport service, staffed round-the-clock with surgeons and medical flight staff specially trained in the complexities of trauma care
    • Boasts six resuscitation areas, an operating room and high tech equipment to assess, diagnose and treat life-threatening illnesses or injuries

    Meet Jack Sava

    Chief of Trauma