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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

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  • October 30, 2020

    By Natasha Durant, PhD, Pain Psychologist at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

    According to the Academy of Pain Management, chronic pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined. In fact, pain is the most common reason that people see a physician. Pain— especially chronic pain—can be a complex condition that involves more than a physical sensation. Often the pain is caused by biological, psychological, and emotional factors as well.

    Chronic pain can cause depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which can make the pain worse. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, pain psychologist Natasha Durant shares why seeing a psychologist can help manage chronic pain:

    Click to Tweet

    How can seeing a psychologist help with chronic pain?

    When a person is in pain, it affects their thoughts and emotions. Pain can cause depression, anxiety, and stress, all of which can make pain worse. Pain may interrupt your ability to sleep and affect your appetite, adding to your body’s dysregulation, and these factors can make pain worse as well. It’s a vicious cycle. To treat pain effectively, you must address the emotional and psychological aspects as well as the physical.

    While individuals with pain seldom think to seek assistance from a psychologist, more and more clinicians are starting to recognize that they can be a valuable part of a comprehensive pain management treatment plan.

    What you can expect if you decide to see a psychologist to help manage your pain.

    Most psychologists specializing in pain management use several tools to help them conceptualize the patient’s situation and inform the development of the best treatment plan. This usually includes a comprehensive interview and careful behavioral observation. There are also a number of questionnaires that are used to measure mood symptom severity, perceived disability, and personality factors, which further enhance our understanding of a patient’s pain.

    Testing can also examine neurocognitive functioning. Cognitive and neurological processes such as attention, concentration, planning, reaction time, and memory may be impaired in patients with pain. This could be the result of head injuries, interference from the pain itself, or medication effects. In elderly patients, cognitive impairment may also occur as a result of dementia.

    Based on this comprehensive assessment, the psychologist will design a treatment plan specific to your unique needs. Treatment plans may involve teaching you relaxation techniques and other ways to manage stress, addressing any anxiety or depression that may accompany your pain, and, if the pain contributes to insomnia, helping you with that.

    Treating the emotional and psychological aspects of chronic pain can help you cope.

    The majority of patients find they can manage their pain better after just a few sessions with a psychologist, though some, such as individuals with depression or dealing with a degenerative medical condition, may benefit from a longer course of treatment. Alleviating pain isn’t always straightforward. But by helping you understand and manage what you are experiencing, you can cope more effectively with your pain, and move on with your life.

    Want more wellness advice?
    Download and read more articles like this for free in the latest issue of Destination: Good Health.

    Learn More

  • October 30, 2020

    By The MWHC Blog Team

    Tysheen Twitty joined MedStar Washington Hospital Center in 2012, coming onboard as an intern in a 90-day manager-in-training program with the hospital’s Environmental Services (EVS) team.

    “My first impression was witnessing a rapid response,” said Tysheen. “I watched various departments coming together, showing me a teamwork environment. I saw this was a busy place with big teams working toward the same goal. I also noticed the people I met took care of everything the correct way.”

    Within a year and a half, Tysheen was promoted to training and compliance manager, responsible for ensuring his department was compliant and up-to-date with training.

    “I saw opportunities, during our routine regulatory inspections,” said Tysheen. “That’s the time to show our leaders what we are capable of. For example, I walked around to survey every restroom within the organization to report back on the state of pull cords. It was a tall order, but I knew that with the proper planning and the execution of that plan, we would be able get the job done. So that’s what we did, surveyed hundreds of restrooms and reported back within 24 hours.”

    This detailed survey led to corrective action to prevent the pull cords from being used for self-harm. Leadership took note of examples like this and, after two years, Tysheen was promoted to Central Patient Transport (CPT) supervisor. It was then that Tysheen added another important skill set. During his rides to and from the Hospital Center on the Metro, Tysheen began teaching himself video editing by watching instructional videos on YouTube. It wasn’t long before word of his new talent got around. Our Office of Patient Experience (OPX) came calling and the video he made for last year’s OPX Fair was so impressive that he was asked to work on other videos. He produced a 2019 holiday greeting and an inspirational look at our team during the COVID-19 response to the tune of “Rise Up.” In the works: an update to our orientation “One Team” video.

    “When I started making videos, I didn’t even know Dr. Argyros knew my name,” said Tysheen. “He held the door for me once and told me that the “One Team” video we created brought tears to his eyes and he would like to use it to kick off our hospital orientation. I was honored, surprised, and shocked.”

    Tysheen has since been promoted to his current position as the manager of CPT. He eventually wants to become a senior director, managing multiple departments.

    “I feel this hospital is definitely an organization that promotes from within,” said Tysheen. “As long as you’re willing to step up to the plate, you have a bright future here.”

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  • October 30, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    Researchers from MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital and MedStar Health Physical Therapy were a part of a large multi-center randomized clinical trial that found that newer and more expensive devices, increasingly seen in outpatient physical therapy centers, did not enhance outcomes for patients following their knee replacement relative to conventional care.

    Study findings appear in  a recent issue of the Journal of Arthroplasty, one of the nation’s three leading orthopedic surgery journals and in  JAMA Network Open, JAMA’s on-line journal.

    In the U.S., upwards of 1.0 million people obtain a primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA) per year. Most go on to use outpatient physical therapy—soon after discharge or following a stay at home or another facility. As part of a typical outpatient visit, the patient will initially participate in a warm-up exercise using a recumbent bike designed to increase blood flow and tissue pliability.

    The trial compared 4 exercise interventions: (1) a recumbent bike (which is usual care) compared to the three newer exercise interventions: (2) a bodyweight-adjustable treadmill, (3) a patterned electrical neurostimulation (PENS) devise used with a recumbent bike, and (4) a PENS device used with a bodyweight-adjustable treadmill.

    The study compared intervention outcomes using (1) walking speed, a performance-based measure, and (2) the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score or KOOS, the most common patient-report measure used to evaluate TKA outcomes.

    The study enrolled 363 patients with more than 90 participants in each of the study’s four arms across 15 MedStar Physical Therapy outpatient rehabilitation centers. Altogether 19 MedStar orthopedic surgeons referred patients to the study.

    Jean Hsieh, PhD, of MedStar NRH’s research program served as the study’s principal investigator. Dr. Hsieh was assisted by Gerben DeJong, PhD as co-principal investigator. Michele Vita, DPT served as the chief clinical services coordinator with able assistance from Linda Briggs, EdD, AVP for the MedStar National Rehabilitation Network. Biostatistical support for the study came from Alexander Zeymo and Sameer Desale of the MedStar Health Research Institute. The study could not have succeeded without the strong support of John Brickley, VP, MedStar National Rehabilitation Network and John Rockwood, its president.

    The study was funded internally by the MedStar National Rehabilitation Network with support from several outside sources including the company’s whose devices were evaluated.

    Journal of Arthroplasty, Vol. 35 (08), 2054-2065. DOI: 10.1016/j.arth.2020.03.048

  • October 30, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    Annual Enrollment is the time to assess your healthcare options for next year and select the coverage that best meets your needs. You have until Nov. 16 to make your selections during 2021 Annual Enrollment. Visit myHR from StarPort or from any computer or mobile device.

    If you wish to keep your current benefits coverage for 2021, you do not need to enroll online. Your 2020 benefit selections and eligible dependents will roll over to 2021, except for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)—you must enroll each year to participate.

    FSAs allow you to set aside pre-tax dollars from your paycheck to use for out-of-pocket expenses, such as eligible medical, dental and vision costs, as well as child care and adult day care services.

    Contact the HR Solution Center at 855-674-myHR (6947), select option 4for questions about your benefits offerings.

    Save $360 on your medical premium

    Complete the MyHealth Questionnaire at by Nov. 30 and save approximately $360 a year on your MedStar Select or CareFirst medical premium for 2021.

  • October 30, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in October 2020. 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.

    Selected research:

    1. Pharmacologic Management of Gout in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Failure
      American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, 2020. DOI: 10.1007/s40256-020-00400-6
      Mouradjian MT, Plazak ME, Gale SE, Noel ZR, Watson K, Devabhakthuni S


    2. Externally Validated Prediction Model of Vaginal Delivery After Preterm Induction With Unfavorable Cervix
      Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2020. DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004039
      Kawakita T, Reddy UM, Huang JC, Auguste TC, Bauer D, Overcash RT.

    3. Galectin-1 production is elevated in hypertrophic scar
      Wound Repair and Regeneration, 2020. DOI: 10.1111/wrr.12869
      Kirkpatrick LD, Shupp JW, Smith RD, Alkhalil A, Moffatt LT, Carney BC.

    4. Micropuncture technique for femoral access is associated with lower vascular complications compared to standard needleCatheter Cardiovasc Interv, 2020. DOI: 10.1002/ccd.29330
      Ben-Dor I, Sharma A, Rogers T, Yerasi C, Case BC, Chezar-Azerrad C, Musallam A, Forrestal BJ, Zhang C, Hashim H, Bernardo N, Satler LF, Waksman R.

    5. Management of recurrent granulosa cell tumor of the ovary: Contemporary literature review and a proposal of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy as novel therapeutic option
      The Journal of Obsetrics and Gynaecology Research, 2020. DOI: 10.1111/jog.14494

  • October 30, 2020

    By MedStar Team

    Oftentimes, there is confusion surrounding with Exempt research and the requirements for IRB or institutional review. This is perfectly understandable, particularly given that the Common Rule has been revised in recent years and more research involving human subjects may fall into an exempt category.

    Although federal regulations do not require IRB review of exempt research, federal agencies have issued guidance recommending that exempt determinations should be made by an individual that is not otherwise affiliated with the research. In other words, institutions should not permit study investigators to make exempt determination for their own projects.

    To ensure that exempt determinations are issued by individuals that are not directly involved with the research, MedStar Health Research Institute policy states that exempt determinations must be made by either an IRB member or qualified / trained / designated members of the ORI staff.

    In order to make these determinations, a formal submission is required through the Huron system. As with all other Human Subjects Research projects the formal determination must be issued before any research activities may begin.

    If you have any questions regarding this process, please contact MHRI’s ORI Director, Jim Boscoe, at