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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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  • June 30, 2020

    By Ebony R. Hoskins, MD

    Over the past 10 or 15 years, uterine cancer cases have steadily increased in the United States. This year alone, an estimated 65,620 women will be diagnosed with this condition. Average age of diagnosis is 60; it is uncommon in women under 45.

    The continuing rise of this cancer is partly due to the increase in obesity, a significant risk factor for the condition. While there’s no way to prevent the disease, there are important steps all women can take to reduce their risk.

    Types and Symptoms

    This cancer presents as two main types: endometrial cancer, which affects the lining of the uterus (the endometrium), and uterine sarcoma, which affects the muscle wall of the uterus. Endometrial cancer is the most common, representing approximately 90% of all occurrences in the United States.

    The primary symptom of uterine cancer is abnormal vaginal bleeding, which appears in 85%–90% of cases. Other symptoms include pelvic or back pain and a noticeable mass. These symptoms are slightly more common in uterine sarcoma, occurring in about 10% of cases.

    Risk Factors

    There are many risk factors, especially when it comes to an individual’s behavior and lifestyle. For example, approximately 70% of these cancers are linked to obesity. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise is the most important step a woman can take to reduce her risk.

    Less controllable factors include:

    • Age—Most cases appear in women over 50
    • Race—The condition is more common in Caucasian women, however African-American women are two times more likely to die from endometrial cancer
    • Genetics—Some women, including those previously diagnosed with a different form of cancer, have a greater genetic predisposition to this cancer than to others

    In addition, several risk factors are linked to high estrogen levels. For example, this disease is more common in women who:

    • Began menstruating before the age of 12 and/or entered menopause after the age of 55
    • Have never given birth
    • Have undergone estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

    Preventing the Disease

    When it comes to reducing your risk of this cancer, adopting a healthy, balanced lifestyle is key. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can be challenging, but they are well worth the effort. If you are struggling with weight loss, consider seeking help from a doctor or nutritionist, who can help you stay on track and achieve your goals.

    Maintaining a healthy weight is the most important step a woman can take to reduce her risk of uterine cancer. Learn more from @drebonyhoskins. via @MedStarWHC
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    Increased estrogen levels can also contribute to the development of this cancer. If you are undergoing hormone replacement therapy to treat symptoms of perimenopause, such as hot flashes, it’s advisable to take a combination of estrogen and progesterone.

    Finally, if you experience any post-menopausal vaginal bleeding, see your primary care provider or gynecologist as soon as possible. Early detection of precancerous conditions like atypical endometrial hyperplasia could prevent you from developing this cancer down the line.

    Seeking Care

    If you have been diagnosed with uterine cancer, the Washington Cancer Institute is here to help. As part of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we have the strong, caring staff and resources needed to provide optimum care for our patients.

    Our Women’s Oncology Center specializes in treating gynecologic cancers and breast cancers. We have a multidisciplinary team of gynecologic oncologists, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists, and we offer other critical services, such as social work and palliative care.

    No matter your concern, we are happy to work with you.

    LISTEN: Dr. Hoskins discusses uterine cancer on the Medical Intel podcast.

    Diagnosed with uterine cancer?

    Our care team can help.

    Call 202-644-9526 or Request an Appointment

  • June 25, 2020

    By Carolyn A. Phillips, MD, Emergency Medicine

    The story of COVID-19 in the emergency department is a study in teamwork, tenacity and resourcefulness.

    We knew very little about the disease when it first emerged. We knew it was a real threat, based on the experience of China, Italy and other hard-hit regions.

    But MedStar Washington Hospital Center has always taken disaster preparedness very seriously, fostering a true culture of readiness where every member of the team knows what to do when it counts. In the face of this new pandemic, the entire Hospital Center went to work, quickly and efficiently.

    We had to prepare for every imaginable contingency—and even for those we could not imagine. We planned for staffing, for ICU overflow, and for managing the supply of PPE, which is personal protective equipment. We put up and equipped tents to handle a potential surge. If anything, we were over-prepared. Thankfully, we never even needed to utilize the tent on our campus or alternate care site at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

    We moved mountains to make all this happen. That level of preparedness really paid off. The team came together like clockwork, each contributing to a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. We kept at it, did what had to be done, and were never overwhelmed. Plus, all the plans are still in place, so we’ll be ready in the event of another outbreak. We continue to stay the course. That’s what I am most proud of.

    Approaching a New Normal

    In 15 years as an emergency physician, I can honestly say I have never seen anything quite like this virus. It is strange, unpredictable, sometimes surreal. Our ER team had to learn a completely new disease process. Up for the challenge, we overcame apprehension and uncertainty, navigating a path that sometimes changed by the hour. With each case we treated, we learned from the experience and emerged even better, faster and more effective.

    At the start of the pandemic, just about everyone who arrived at the ER came for coronavirus symptoms. Thankfully, we are now past that stage. As cases trend downward and society begins the reopening process, we are seeing more typical cases returning.

    One of the strange things about this pandemic was the way so many formerly routine issues slowed to a trickle. Thanks to stay-at-home orders, for example, there were fewer auto accidents, and so fewer associated injuries.

    But concerning to our doctors was the absence from the ER of the most potentially serious conditions, like heart attack or stroke. The worry among healthcare professionals is that some of those people chose to stay home out of fear of the disease, instead of getting the life-sustaining treatment they needed. That could lead to long-term health effects for years to come.

    If you are injured or showing signs of serious illness, there is no reason to be nervous about coming to the Hospital Center. We apply every precaution, including personal protective equipment like masks for both patient and provider, restricted visitation, isolation of critical patients, minimizing both wait times and the number of providers with whom each patient comes in contact, and expanded availability of MedStar Health eVisit and Video Visit.

    Don’t avoid treatment for a serious problem. With telemedicine more available than ever, make sure to reach out to us if you have any health concerns.

    Treating COVID-19 in the ER has been a study in teamwork, tenacity and resourcefulness. via @MedStarWHC
    Click to Tweet

    The Beginning: Uncertainty

    Although nothing in our training or experience prepared us specifically for this virus, emergency medicine personnel excel at expecting the unexpected. After all, it’s what we do, every day.

    Psychologically, those first few weeks were very challenging. The fear of the unknown was, by far, the hardest part. Could we manage the surge? Would we be overwhelmed, stressed to the breaking point—like some of our colleagues in New York?

    The challenges were many. We didn’t know exactly how the disease would present or progress. Nationwide, healthcare professionals were in a steep learning curve, having zero experience with this brand-new disease state. There was no reliable test for the virus. There were no medications to combat it.

    However, we did have knowledge, shared by health professionals in other parts of the world. With guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the American College of Emergency Physicians and others, we understood that the virus is a variation of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). We knew lung health would be key to beating the disease, and we focused our efforts on oxygen.

    Throwing Out the Old Playbook

    Although mild cases of this new virus act like the flu, what we’ve seen in the emergency room is nothing like flu. It’s very unusual for flu victims to have severe hypoxia—low blood oxygen. At most, we see one or two cases of that each season. Yet, with this disease, it’s the norm in the sickest patients—and often presents without the usual symptoms. We were often surprised to see how low blood oxygen levels had dropped without the patient even reporting much discomfort.

    COVID-19 presents a cascade of potentially life-threatening problems, like blood clots and a massive immune response. Blood oxygen is priority one, two and three. But although we quickly learned to be very aggressive with oxygen, it’s a balancing act. Too much oxygen can be harmful. So we were careful to be aggressive when needed, while also knowing when to use a lighter touch.

    All Over the Map

    Since we first heard about this virus, we’ve become practiced at recognizing the classic presentation—respiratory distress, elevated heart rate, low oxygen. Yet over time, we saw that it represents only a portion of those infected.

    This disease can manifest very differently depending on the individual. We now know that some people can have it without a single symptom, and some simply have a mild flu-like reaction. Others become gravely ill and need the aggressive oxygen therapy and, potentially, ventilator treatment.

    This was very tricky in the early days, before we had reliable testing. But we knew who was at greatest risk—the elderly and those with underlying chronic disease. Quite often, patients told us they just didn’t feel quite right. Later, when we started testing, our instincts were confirmed. Many who report such nebulous symptoms do indeed test positive.

    Testing: The Game Changer

    Testing has made all the difference. As testing protocols have advanced, accuracy and speed have improved. In the ED, we have several versions of the test available and can get results within a few hours. That’s a positive development, but more widespread testing and a reliable supply of reagents and other supplies will be key to battling the virus successfully.

    Along with testing, experience has driven clear protocols for the disease and strict PPE requirements. The masks, gowns and gloves can be challenging, but we have all become very adept at getting the gear on quickly when seconds count.

    A Cloud With a Silver Lining

    Working in emergency medicine these past few months has been stressful and sometimes frightening. But the crisis has also brought out the best in both the healthcare system and the communities we serve.

    I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the team. The doctor is only one part. We evaluate, test and make a treatment plan. Others put the plan into action, and they are the true heroes in this pandemic. Everyone stepped up: nurses, techs, EMTs, radiology technicians, respiratory therapists, infection control, security and environmental services, to name a few. Our hospital leadership also worked tirelessly to make sure we had the resources we needed to provide life-saving care for these patients.

    The community has shown an unprecedented outpouring of warmth and support—even those who have lost loved ones. It’s gratifying to see people acknowledge the hard work of first responders.

    The ER is a very social atmosphere—one of the many things I love about the job. Even with all the challenges, we are privileged to be working, compared to many who have been forced to isolate themselves. I feel it on my days off as well. Front-line workers must take care to stay safely distant from others, so I am grateful for my cats, dog, and Zoom meetings with my extended family.

    At MedStar Washington Hospital Center, I am surrounded by caring, smart, resourceful and exemplary professionals in every discipline.

    That keeps us going, every day. It is a true inspiration.

    Don’t ignore serious symptoms.

    Our medical team is here for you.

    Call 202-644-9526 or Request an Appointment

  • June 24, 2020

    By James Moser, PT, DPT

    Everyone is spending more time at home these days, which hopefully means you are getting around to tackling that “to-do list” of projects. And with the warm summer weather, a lot of those projects probably have to do with your yard or outdoor space. Practicing safe techniques when working around the yard is crucial to helping prevent injuries.

    Here are some safety tips to keep in mind while you’re working on your projects this summer. Although these examples are specific to yard work and gardening, the same principles can be applied to most projects at home, from cleaning the garage to storing items in the attic.

    Plan on tackling some yard work this summer? Practicing safe techniques while doing so is crucial to preventing injuries. Here are five safety tips to keep in mind when you’re working in the yard via @MedStarHealth #LiveWellHealthy:

    Click to Tweet

    1. Warm up.

    It is imperative to warm up before any physical activity. Whether you are going for a run or tackling that backyard landscaping project, a warm-up is equally important to avoid injury. Try doing some small dynamic stretches and movements of your arms and legs that mimic the activities you are about to perform. This will get your body moving, increase your heart rate, and enhance the power, flexibility, and range of motion of your muscles. Dynamic stretches can include high knees and leg extensions.

    2. Be careful lifting.

    Lifting is probably the most common activity you will do when working around the house. Improper lifting can cause serious back injury. Here is a “top-down” checklist to ensure proper lifting mechanics:

    • Assess the object that you are going to lift and/or carry. Before you attempt to lift yourself, make sure you have the appropriate equipment (if needed) and/or assistance from a family member for heavier items. If you do not have assistance, divide the weight of your load into smaller amounts as much as possible.
    • Keep your eyes forward and look slightly upward to help maintain a neutral position in your back. If you keep your eyes and head looking at the ground when lifting, you might cause your spine to be in a flexed position, which could lead to possible injury.
    • Brace your core before and during the activity. This does not mean hold your breath! An easy way to think about bracing your abdominal muscles is to imagine you are about to be hit in the stomach and you tense your muscles to protect yourself.
    • Hold items close to your stomach. This significantly reduces the unwanted stress on your back and allows you to perform the movement with greater ease. Just as holding a gallon of milk with an outstretched arm is more difficult than with a bent elbow, the same is true when lifting a bag of mulch.
    • Keep your weight on your heels. Shifting your weight onto your toes when lifting heavy items from the ground can place unwanted stress into your knees. When those movements are done repetitively, they can certainly leave you sore and lead to possible injury.
    • Lift with your legs. Position yourself close to the object you are lifting. Make sure you bend your knees to bring your body down to the object, not bending at your waist to reach it. Press through your heels and straighten your legs to lift.
    • If you must turn, turn your feet, not your torso. Even if what you are carrying is not heavy, doing this repetitively is a very common cause of injury.
    • Be aware of your energy level. If you are starting to fatigue and feel discomfort, it’s time for a break. Pushing yourself can lead to serious injury.

    3. Protect your knees.

    For many people, gardening is a relaxing hobby that keeps them occupied for long periods of time. But kneeling in your garden bed, even for just a few minutes, can leave your knees feeling stiff and sore. Sitting back on your knees can also lead to using your hands and wrists to stabilize when reaching, and requires your hands and wrists to bear your weight while shifting from kneeling to standing.

    If you don’t have knee pads or a garden pad, here are some items that can serve as a temporary replacement:

    • Doormat
    • Folded blanket
    • Cardboard
    • Old rug or piece of carpet

    4. Avoid twisting.

    You may find yourself needing to shovel at some point to break up those roots or move a pile of dirt. Just remember to step towards where you are placing the dirt rather than twisting. Repetitive and uncontrolled twisting of your back can lead to aches and pain. Avoid injury by taking that extra step (literally!).

    5. Save energy with small movements.

    When raking, think small. Making short sweeps rather than broad ones. This is more energy efficient and will not be so draining. It will also save you from overworking your shoulders. After all, you do want to save a little energy for the games to be played on your updated yard.

    Help avoid bodily aches and pains by warming up, using proper mechanics, and saving energy whenever you are performing physical activity around the house. If you experience soreness or pain lasting longer than a few days after activity, you may benefit from physical therapy. Ask your physician if physical therapy is right for you.

    Want to learn more about physical therapy services with MedStar Health?

    Click here.

  • June 23, 2020

    By The MWHC Blog Team

    In 2015, then 69-year-old Willie M. Smith was diagnosed with breast cancer. A simple lumpectomy removed her tumor and a five-year dose of the oral medication, Anastrozole, was prescribed. The retired licensed practical nurse was in familiar territory. She spent 45 years working at the Hospital Center and much of that time at the Washington Cancer Institute.

    Then last year, Ms. Smith’s oncologist, Christopher Gallagher, MD, told her he heard a heart murmur during a routine check-up and ordered an echocardiogram. What the test indicated prompted a referral to Ian Chang, MD, a MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute cardio-oncologist specializing in heart disease in cancer patients.

    “It showed that the valve in my heart wasn’t opening and closing correctly,” Ms. Smith says. “It was a shock and very surprising. I did have leg swelling and felt out of breath just walking from the parking garage to the hospital, though.”

    Treatment was fairly simple: compression stockings and medication to reduce the swelling.

    But the valve deformity suggested that she might have some type of systemic disease, prompting a chest CT and an MRI of the abdomen and pelvis. The tests led to a rare diagnosis: carcinoid tumors.

    “It’s a slow growing cancer that was probably there for the last 15 years,” Ms. Smith explains. “And if I hadn’t seen Dr. Gallagher and Dr. Chang, it would not have been diagnosed because I had no symptoms.”

    Now under treatment with the Cancer Institute’s David Perry, MD, Ms. Smith marvels at this turn of events. “I have got to call it divine intervention!”

    Need a checkup?

    Schedule a video visit with us.

    Call 202-644-9526 or Request an Appointment

  • June 19, 2020

    By Steven Abramowitz, MD

    It’s a sensitive subject. For some, uncomfortable. Most guys don’t want to talk about it.

    But most men will experience erectile dysfunction, or ED, at some point in their lifes—as many as 80 percent, by some estimates. Regardless of the cause, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about it. It’s a common problem that’s often very treatable.

    But staying silent can be dangerous, because this dysfunction may be a warning sign of cardiovascular disease. And a delay in reporting it might put your heart and blood vessels at risk.

    When everything works normally, an intricate blend of psychology and physiology sends blood where it needs to go and keeps it there for a while. So, it makes perfect sense that trouble with an erection might be a sign of problems in the circulatory system, especially in men over 40.

    Many long-term studies associate ED with both silent cardiovascular disease and silent peripheral vascular disease. It’s also been associated with disease in the aorta. Any disease that negatively impacts the smallest blood vessels—the microvasculature—can cause a host of problems, including stroke and heart attack. Because sexual performance is made possible by small blood vessels, dysfunction may serve as a warning of these potentially bigger problems.

    Cardiovascular disease usually starts with damage to the endothelium, a thin layer that lines the blood vessels and vessels of the lymphatic system. In direct contact with blood, the endothelium controls blood flow and clotting. It plays a major role in regulating the immune system, combating inflammation and building new blood vessels. When the endothelium is damaged by factors such as tobacco exposure, several problems can occur—most typically, hypertension and poor circulation that can encourage life-threatening blood clots.

    A Real Danger

    Men who experience difficulty with an erection may be four times more likely to have cardiovascular disease and three times more likely to have carotid artery issues than men who have no difficulty. These risks are so well documented that, when erectile dysfunction is reported as part of a general workup, it often merits a cardiovascular assessment. That generally starts with a physician’s office visit and additional testing such as a stress test, EKG, or echocardiogram, depending on the individual. It’s important to identify any issues in the heart and blood vessels immediately, even before the ED itself is addressed.

    Cardiovascular disease is just one potential cause. Sexual performance in men is complicated and depends on many things happening in the right sequence and at the right time. Sometimes, it’s psychological. Stress, in and out of the relationship, is a common culprit. Prescription and recreational drugs can interfere, including alcohol and tobacco. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol play a role. Obesity is a potential cause. Low testosterone levels and other endocrine issues are contributors. Traumatic injury and some surgeries can affect it, as can problems in the brain and nervous system and even psychological trauma.

    With all these potential causes, how do you figure out which one may be affecting you? Short answer: you can’t, on your own. That’s why it’s so important to talk to an expert.

    Talking about erectile dysfunction could save your life—it’s a potential warning sign of cardiovascular disease. Details from Dr. Steven Abramowitz. via @MedStarWHC
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    Talking About It Could Save Your Life

    Men experiencing performance issues should not avoid talking about it.

    You could ignore it and hope for the best. You could try to treat it on your own. You could chalk it up to aging and forget about it. Or, you could do the right thing and talk to your doctor.

    As a vascular surgeon, I can say without hesitation that delaying medical attention can lead to bigger issues in the future. If ED is caused by problems in the blood vessels, by the time that man comes to see me or a cardiologist, it could be too late. The damage has likely been done over years and, at that stage, there’s little any doctor can do to restore normal function. Before a patient gets to that point, there are dozens of ways we can help, including oral and injectable medications and devices to improve blood flow.

    Unfortunately, the urge to keep the problem under wraps drives some men to self-medicate without a doctor’s visit. Erectile dysfunction is a big industry, with many players seeking a pathway to your wallet.

    But you can also buy legitimate medications without visiting a doctor, and that’s really asking for trouble. You may try this for years before the pills stop working. Then what? If it turns out that your problems with an erection actually have cardiovascular roots, you’re much worse off than if you had sought medical attention earlier.

    Don’t Go It Alone

    ED can be more than a nuisance, embarrassment or source of anxiety for you and your partner. Although it can be uncomfortable to talk about, your healthcare provider can help you get the conversation started.

    The issue can affect any man at any age and has many potential causes. Your doctor will work to narrow the cause, starting with a physical exam and medical history and asking key questions about your health and situation. It’s important to be honest in your answers—even the difficult ones, like any recreational drug history.

    Expect questions about your general state of health and well-being. Weight, exercise and other lifestyle factors will be evaluated, as well as medication history, stress levels, relationship status, sleep patterns—things you might never consider without expert guidance.

    Our multi-disciplinary approach includes urology, cardiology, vascular surgery and endocrinology, and a patient with erection issues may be referred to a specialist in one of these areas for testing. When our team has determined if the cause is psychological or physical, we can target the problem and devise a plan to improve the situation.

    What You Can Do

    Besides being candid with your doctor, anything that will improve your general health will also improve your blood flow, including regular exercise, good diet, avoiding tobacco and not drinking excessively. Because blood flow is key to performance, the better your cardiovascular health, the healthier your sex life can be.

    In the final analysis, facing the issue is all benefit with no risk. Erectile dysfunction is more than just a physical problem. It can have a real impact on quality of life. It can make men anxious and can contribute to feelings of failure, inadequacy or letting their partner down. Those are all reasons enough to talk with your doctor.

    But now you know: talking about it could also save your life and give you more years to enjoy it.

    Experiencing erectile dysfunction?

    Our specialists are here to help.

    Call 202-644-9526 or Request an Appointment

  • June 19, 2020

    By Dr. Ryun Lee, DO

    You’ve probably heard of chiropractors and massage therapists who use a hands-on approach to relieve tension and improve function in the body. But did you know that there’s a specially trained medical doctor who can use the same manual techniques—and others—to promote healing in every part of your body?

    Osteopathy doctors (DOs) are experts in diagnosing and treating all kinds of conditions using osteopathic manipulative medicine, or OMM for short. OMM is a set of hands-on techniques that DOs use to apply pressure or force to any part of the body. This can:

    • Relieve pain
    • Improve mobility and range of motion
    • Restore function

    As a DO, I practice a holistic approach to patient care. When there is an illness or injury to one part of your body, the rest of your body is also affected. In fact, nearly 80 organs inside your body are working together to keep you alive and well!

    Your brain and nervous system tell your heart to beat. In the same way, your skeletal system needs nutrients from the digestive system to build strong bones. That’s why DOs don’t just focus on the injured part of your body. Instead, they apply OMM techniques to joints, muscles, nerves, and tissues that can impact all ten of the body’s systems.

    How does OMM work?

    Restriction and tightness in your muscles and nerves can be caused by or lead to other health problems. To correct this, DOs are trained in over 40 OMM techniques. Some of the most popular techniques include:

    • Soft tissue pressure application: Massaging or stretching the body’s soft tissues to improve blood flow and provide pain relief.
    • Release of muscle energy: A push-pull approach that involves you moving your muscles one way while a DO pushes or pulls in the opposite direction.
    • Myofascial release: Applying firm but gentle pressure to release tension in the tissue surrounding your bones, muscles, and organs called fascia.
    • Cranial manipulation: Applying soft pressure to different parts of the skull, which can encourage healing.

    How is it different from seeing a chiropractor?

    While DOs and chiropractors may use some of the same techniques, there are distinct differences between them.

    1. OMM treats more than just joints. While chiropractors focus on your bones, DOs use OMM to prevent and treat health concerns affecting any part of the body. So if your head hurts, they may work on other parts of the body that could be the root cause of your headache, including related joints, muscles, blood vessels, and fascia.
    2. OMM is performed by medical doctors. Just like doctors with an “MD” after their name, DOs complete medical school and a medical residency as part of their training. As a medical doctor, DOs can also prescribe medication, run tests, and conduct check-ups. In contrast, chiropractors are not considered medical doctors. Only DOs are trained and licensed to perform OMM.
    3. OMM uses more techniques. Chiropractors often use thrust techniques that result in cracking or a “pop” in the bones. DOs may occasionally use a thrust technique, but they’re also trained to use many other direct and indirect methods.

    What does OMM treat?

    OMM can be used to diagnose and treat all kinds of medical conditions and injuries. Most commonly, OMM is effective for relieving muscle and joint pain. Many of my patients find that it also helps relieve symptoms for conditions such as:

    • Asthma
    • Carpal tunnel syndrome
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Insomnia
    • Menstrual cramps
    • Overuse injuries (e.g. tennis elbow)
    • Sinus problems
    • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ)
    Struggle with chronic pain, headaches, or sleep? Osteopathic manipulative medicine techniques can relieve pain and improve symptoms with no side effects or risks. Learn more via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog:

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    While we can’t heal certain irreversible conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or scoliosis, we may use OMM to improve related symptoms in combination with other treatments, such as physical therapy, medication, or surgery.

    Who can get OMM?

    DOs can use OMM on patients of all ages with just about any condition, from infants who struggle with breastfeeding to adults with symptoms of heart failure. Your DO will adjust the pressure of their techniques based on your condition.

    A patient with arthritis or osteoporosis may need a gentler approach than a high school athlete recovering from tendonitis. Likewise, a DO would not use thrusting techniques on an infant or child who is still growing.

    If you’ve recently experienced a more traumatic injury, such as a fracture, I recommend waiting to see a DO until your injury is healed. You don’t want to cause more stress to your injury!

    Is it covered by health insurance?

    In most cases, OMM is covered by health insurance. The amount that is covered my vary based on your insurance company, so it’s always best to call your insurance company to find out what’s included.

    What can I expect at an OMM appointment?

    Going to an OMM appointment is very similar to going to see your primary care doctor. In fact, your doctor may even be the same as your primary care doctor. I’m a DO who specializes in family medicine so my patients benefit from receiving OMM in the same place they go for their annual check-ups, flu shots, and other preventative care. Other DOs may specialize in internal medicine, pediatrics, or specialty care.

    Keep in mind that your OMM visit may take a little longer than a traditional primary care visit. During your OMM appointment, your doctor will:

    • Ask you about your medical history and your current condition.
    • Conduct a physical exam that checks your nerves, muscles, and bones.
    • Apply stretching, gentle pressure, or resistance techniques to various parts of the body (e.g. neck, back, arms, legs, or head).

    Often, your doctor will not start where you’re experiencing discomfort. For example, if you have pain in your neck, I may check some other areas that could be causing the pain. But don’t worry—we’ll get there! Many patients feel relief for symptoms immediately, while others notice a positive change over a longer period.

    Your doctor will determine how often you should receive treatment based on your condition and how your body responds to OMM. Depending on your condition, your DO may suggest other supplementary treatments to go along with OMM.

    Watch the video below to see Dr. Ryun Lee explain and demonstrate OMM techniques.

    Is OMM right for me?

    With no side effects and the convenience of being done in a doctor’s office, OMM may be just what you need to get relief from your health problems. OMM doesn’t cure everything, but it does offer risk-free benefits for patients with chronic pain, sleep problems, and other injuries or illnesses.

    Those interested in learning if OMM may relieve your pain or symptoms should talk to your MedStar Health primary care doctor today. If your primary care is a DO, they’ll be able to offer you OMM treatment right there in the office. Otherwise, they can refer to you a MedStar Health DO nearby.

    Learn about additional benefits of having a primary care provider.
    Click below to read more from our blog.

    4 Reasons Why You Should Have a Primary Care Provider.