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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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  • March 30, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    One of the best ways we can maintain good health is by being physically active on a regular basis. In fact, active kids are healthier kids who experience greater success in life. Ideally, active habits start in early childhood and continue as we grow and develop, but, it’s never too late to start becoming more active.

    Given the increased hours, days, and weeks we’re spending at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that we all keep moving. Our future health depends on it.

    What kind of physical activity do kids need?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers research-based physical activity recommendations for all ages, races, genders, and ability levels. In general, the CDC recommends the following physical activity for various age groups:

    • Preschool-aged children between the ages of three and five should be physically active multiple times during the day through various play activities.
    • Children and adolescents between the ages of six to 17 should participate in a mix of aerobic and strengthening activities for at least 60 minutes every day.

    Why physical activity is important for your child’s health

    The National Association of Physical Literacy defines physical literacy as the ability, balance, confidence, desire, and explorative nature to be active for life. Kids develop physical literacy by moving and exploring their surrounding environment. As babies, kids start to navigate the world around them, using trial and error to develop the foundational skills of movement. These are the building blocks that kids expand upon as they grow, learning and creating more complex movement patterns.

    Kids who are active early are more likely to want to keep moving.

    It is often this early activity level that will determine how active a child will be as an adult. Without the basic foundation of movement skills, children struggle to stay physically active. In comparison, kids who develop early physical literacy skills are more likely to enjoy athletic activity and stay moving as they grow up.

    Active kids do better in life.

    Kids who learn to move better are more likely to want to stay active. That’s why research suggests active kids do better in life.

    The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program published a report in 2018 proving that active kids are healthier kids because:

    • Active kids are more likely to maintain a healthy weight from childhood to adulthood, with one-tenth of the risk of obesity as compared to inactive children. Childhood obesity is directly linked to lack of exercise and nearly 20% of American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese.
    • Active kids perform better in school. Physical activity promotes normal growth and development and improves sleep. As a result, active kids demonstrate better attention in school and higher test scores, which increases the likelihood that they will attend college. In adulthood, this translates to improved productivity at work, with a better chance of earning a higher income compared to inactive counterparts.
    • Active kids make healthier choices as teenagers. Active kids are less likely to participate in risky behaviors, including smoking, drinking, and drug use.
    • Active kids are less likely to have chronic diseases later in life. Regular exercises can decrease the risk of seven out of 10 of the most common chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. As a result, healthy habits experience fewer health costs and an overall decrease in morbidity.
    • Active kids tend to become healthy active adults. And, children of active parents are twice as likely to be active themselves.

    Research suggests #ActiveKids are healthy kids who do better in life. On the #LiveWellHealthy blog, physical therapist Emily Coates shares why, plus tips to get them moving while they’re stuck at home amidst #COVID-19.
    Click to Tweet

    Physical activity can keep your kids healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    As a parent or caretaker stuck inside with your kids, these may not be the immediate concerns in your mind. But physical activity has many additional benefits that will improve health-related quality of life. While your family is confined to your home during the COVID-19 pandemic, physical activity can:

    • Reduce stress and anxiety caused by uncertainty
    • Improve immune function
    • Stave off the negative effects of inactivity (e.g., obesity, depression, and chronic disease)

    How to help your kids establish active habits at home

    While you’re at home, it’s important to create a positive environment that focuses on fun and movement. Given the fear and anxiety we are all experiencing during this pandemic, both you and your kids can benefit from physical movement more now than ever.

    If you aren’t already active as a family, now is a great time to introduce more exercise into your new routine. To increase your kid’s physical activity, find creative ways to get moving that work for your family and the space you have available. Right now, that might be your living room.

    Try these indoor activities to get your kids moving at home.

    There are all sorts of activities that can be done at home with limited space and equipment. The best kinds of indoor activities are those that are fun and encourage exercise without necessarily feeling like a workout. Try these indoor activity ideas to get your kids moving at home:

    • Dance parties
    • Animal races (move like a crab, bear, or frog)
    • Nerf wars
    • Balloon ball
    • Movement-based games, such as charades or Simon Says
    • Virtual activities, such as online kids’ fitness videos and movement-based video games

    Don’t be afraid to encourage outdoor activity.

    If it’s possible for your family, safely get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Maybe a walk or bike ride appeals to your family. Other outdoor activities might include a game of tag, frisbee, or catch. As long as you have the space to maintain appropriate social distancing, get outside and play.

    Be sure to follow CDC guidelines for public health.

    As you encourage your kids to get active, keep in mind the recommendations of public health experts, including:

    • Practicing good hand hygiene by washing hands with warm, soapy water at least 20 seconds before and after all activity
    • Following social distancing guidelines by remaining in groups of less than 10 and maintaining space between
    • Avoiding the sharing of sports or fitness equipment, including public playgrounds
    • Cleaning and disinfecting any equipment before and after use
    • Refraining from touching frequently-used surfaces (e.g., handrails on a walking path)

    Our days are quite a bit different now, but we can all keep moving to stay active and healthy.

    To learn more about COVID-19 public health recommendations, visit

    How are you getting your kids moving while they’re stuck at home? Share your comments with us on social media!

    Tell Us on Facebook

  • March 26, 2020

    By Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, MD

    When an unfamiliar disease strikes, it can cause tremendous fear and anxiety. We’ve seen it before—during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and, in more recent times, with HIV, SARS and the anthrax scare after 9/11.

    Fear and anxiety breed uncertainty, and that uncertainty tends to be most intense in the earliest phase of any crisis. As COVID-19 spreads across the country, we see the same concerns—fear of infection and of spreading the disease, and the stress of not knowing if you’ve been exposed.

    The good news: we are resilient, we will prevail. This storm will pass, as we are already witnessing in the nations that were affected first. Until then, apply these tips, tools and techniques to reduce anxiety and help you and your loved ones weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Breathe. Literally.

    Breathe deeply, 10 times, through the nose.

    I recommend practicing this daily, both on a routine basis and then whenever anxiety levels begin to rise. Deep breathing can calm you and give your brain time to pause, reset and slow down.

    Short-Term Focus, Long-Term Plan

    Anxiety often results when you feel you’re losing control. When events are bigger than us and changing rapidly, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and powerless.

    Rather than dwell on all the things you cannot control, think about the things you can. What can you do, right now? Focusing on what you will do today, or even over the next few hours, can help you regain a sense of control and prevent the big picture from looming even larger. Some of those answers are clearly laid out: maintain social distance, limit travel, wash your hands often—all guidelines we have been following.

    Short-term planning is especially important when supervising children who are out of school. Planning the day, doing what and when, is a healthy focus. But understand that the schedule may get knocked off-track, so flexibility is key as well.

    Long-term planning is OK as long as we don’t obsess over an unpredictable future. Take care of your health. If you are on prescription medications, be sure you have enough on hand. If you have an urgent medical need, reach out to your provider. MedStar Health is doing what needs to be done to maintain business as usual while assuring preparedness to manage any virus situations that may arise. Communication is key. Call or use MedStar eVisit, if you need it.

    Do More of What Makes You Happy

    Though quite out of the ordinary, today’s situation is not without precedent. People have coped in similar circumstances.

    Most of us are lucky to have the basics—food, power and shelter. Look at the current scenario as an opportunity. What hobbies or other forms of personal development can you pursue, now that you have more time?
    • Spring is blossoming and the weather is warming up. Many will find gardening and yard work calming and productive
    • Get outside when the weather is good, as long as you maintain social distance
    • Get the guitar out of the closet, or dust off the piano. I grew up singing (poorly) and I find myself singing a lot more. It makes me feel good. I still sing poorly but I do it anyway
    • Spend quality time with your pets
    • Writing, art, cooking—devote time to anything creative that you enjoy

    Distance, Not Isolation

    Remember that distancing doesn’t mean isolation. We are going through this with technology that makes staying connected easier than ever.

    Stay in touch with friends and loved ones, by phone, email and social media—especially those with more restrictive limits, like the elderly in nursing homes.

    Occasionally Disconnect From TV and Social Media

    The illness is dominating the news cycle and it’s difficult to escape. It’s a good idea to limit news and social media. In the evenings, after answering COVID-19 emails for 30 minutes, I spend 30 minutes reading. Then I go to bed early. Turning off the barrage of information can be good for your mental health.
    Caring for others is an excellent way to care for yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic. via @MedStarWHC
    Click to Tweet

    Put Others First

    No one individual alone can solve a crisis. But each of us can take action that benefits those around us. This powerful tool can actually improve your own outlook. Caring about others is a very effective way to care for yourself. Here are some examples:
    • Help the kids with schoolwork
    • Check—from a distance—on elderly neighbors and look for ways to help them cope
    • Reach out to family at a distance and any others at higher medical risk
    • Take a moment to contact anyone in your circle who may feel lonely or isolated

    Nobody Has All the Answers

    As the COVID-19 situation evolves, it is OK to feel anxious and not have all the answers. Do what you can, right now.

    We are all leaders. So we must act like leaders, with a mission and a sense of purpose. That will empower you and those around you to stay calm and focused.
  • March 26, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Just as flu season comes to an end in the United States, the Novel Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (COVID-19) shows up to thwart your spring break plans. While there are many similarities between the two viruses, COVID-19 is also different from the flu in a variety of ways.

    Since the flu has been around a long time, we know what causes it, how it spreads, and how to treat it. As we continue to learn new things about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, here are a few ways COVID-19 compares to the flu.

    How COVID-19 and the flu are similar.

    The flu and COVID-19 are both respiratory infections with similar symptoms.

    Like the flu, COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe symptoms, including:

    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Shortness of breath
    • Body aches

    There is no particular order to symptom development for either COVID-19 or flu, but often symptoms worsen over a few days. Nearly 80% of people with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate symptoms. Similar to the flu, most cases of coronavirus last for about one week, although this varies by person to person.  

    In either case, if you have shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, you should call a doctor right away.

    The flu and COVID-19 are easily spread through the air and contact with infected surfaces.

    Both the flu and COVID-19 are highly contagious and can be spread through:

    • Coughing or sneezing, which releases droplets of the infection within several feet
    • Direct contact with others, including shaking hands or touching

    We are still learning about other ways COVID-19 may be spread.

    Older populations have a higher risk of experiencing complications from COVID-19 or the flu.

    Current data suggest that 10 to 15% of people with COVID-19 will need to be hospitalized because of health complications such as pneumonia. In general, people with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk of severe or fatal health complications arising from COVID-19 or the flu. That’s why it’s important to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or the flu to people: 

    • Over the age of 70
    • With underlying health conditions, including:
      • Cancer
      • Diabetes
      • Heart disease
      • Lung conditions

    Most people fully recover from COVID-19 and the flu.

    Whether you have the flu or COVID-19, your chances of a full recovery are high, even if you’re hospitalized. South Korea conducted nearly a quarter of a million COVID-19 tests broadly across the country and measured a fatality rate of just .6%. China’s data suggests that of those tested with COVID-19, 3% of cases were fatal. While both statistics are low, death is still possible, so it’s important to seek care if you have a higher risk of complications from either COVID-19 or the flu.

    Most people who get #COVID-19 fully recover, but it’s important to do your part in minimizing its spread by following @CDCgov guidelines. Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Glenn Wortmann shares more on the #LiveWellHealthy blog.

    Click to Tweet

    You can minimize the spread of the COVID-19 and the flu by taking steps to protect yourself and others.

    Because the flu and COVID-19 are easily spread through contact with people, it’s important to take steps to minimize the spread of both diseases. Take the following preventative measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and the flu:

    • Wash your hands with warm soapy water as often as possible for at least 20 seconds at a time.
    • When water isn’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Stay home and avoid contact with others when you are sick.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze using the inside of your elbow or a tissue.
    • Clean and disinfect countertops, doorknobs, light switches, and other frequently touched surfaces.

    How COVID-19 is different than the flu.

    Flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses.

    While the flu is caused by different strains of the influenza virus, COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of coronavirus that first appeared in central China in December of 2019. 

    You may be surprised to know that “coronaviruses” are not actually new, as several diseases classified as coronaviruses have affected the world in the past few decades, including: 

    • MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome)
    • SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)

    Every major disease outbreak is different, and since COVID-19 is a new coronavirus strain, we are learning new information about it every day. The best way to respond is to follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations and do your part to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. 

    There is no vaccination or antibiotic to prevent or treat COVID-19.

    Unlike the seasonal flu, there is no medicine available to prevent or treat COVID-19 yet. Because COVID-19 is such a new disease, researchers are still working to develop something that can fight off the virus. It takes time to test the safety and effectiveness of any new medicine, so it may take more than a year for a vaccine to become available. 

    We’re still learning new things about COVID-19.

    We’ve only had a few weeks to observe COVID-19’s impact in other countries and now our own, so there is still a lot more to learn. For example, unlike the flu, children do not seem to be as affected by COVID-19 symptoms. We are also learning more about how it is spread, including how long the virus can remain on surfaces.

    This is not the world’s first pandemic. We can apply the same principles used in the past to help slow down the spread of COVID-19. The most effective way to protect yourself and those around you is to:

    • Wash your hands
    • Practice social distancing as directed by the CDC
    • Avoid contact with others if you’re sick

    You can stay updated on new COVID-19 developments at find out answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19, watch the video below.

    What to do if you suspect you have COVID-19.

    Not everyone who has COVID-19 needs to see a doctor. However, if you have severe symptoms of COVID-19, you should seek medical advice by: 

  • March 24, 2020

    By Brian Lim Bello, MD

    Most people don't like discussing issues with their bowel movements (BMs) or even thinking about them. But the condition of your fecal matter can reveal a lot about your colorectal and overall health—for example, a potential infection within your colon or, in the worst-case scenario, cancer.

    That's why it's important to stay aware of any changes in your BMs, as well as follow the recommended screenings for colon cancer. Colonoscopy is an effective diagnostic method to determine what's happening if you are having concerning symptoms. Unfortunately, a lot of people in the United States do not get screened appropriately. If we can educate more people on the need to do this, we can prevent a lot of deaths from colorectal cancer.

    The condition of the bowel movement can indicate a potential issue with your colon—an infection or, in the worst-case scenario, cancer. via @MedStarWHC @blbello
    Click to Tweet

    The Discomfort of Constipation

    Constipation is a frequent complaint in the general population.  It can mean different things to different people: stools may be too hard or too difficult to evacuate or too infrequent.  It's not optimal to have just one BM every three or four days or longer because this can lead to other issues. If your fecal matter is hard, dry, or difficult to pass, it may mean that you are:

    • Not eating a balanced diet including fiber
    • Dehydrated
    • Experiencing side effects of medications
    • Experiencing another underlying medical condition
    • Pregnant
    • Experiencing a colon issue that requires a doctor’s attention

    Eating a high-fiber diet and drinking plenty of water can help prevent hemorrhoids, which often accompany constipation.

    The Urgency of Diarrhea

    Watery or loose fecal matter can indicate an issue with your diet. It could also mean that you may have:

    • An infection
    • A reaction to medication
    • A problem with your colon

    If you find that you have a sense of urgency—needing to go to the bathroom right away—the consistency of your BMs may be too loose. Often patients with diarrhea or chronic diarrhea experience this sense of urgency.

    The Effect of Narcotics, Medications, and Alcohol

    Narcotics, as well as certain anti-hypertensive medications, can slow your bowels down.

    On the other hand, a very common side effect from antibiotics is diarrhea. If you experience continuous or worsening diarrhea, let your doctor know. In addition, alcohol has been linked to different cancers including colon cancer.

    Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

    When the pelvic floor does not tighten or relax correctly, this can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction. Symptoms may include constipation, leakage of stool or urine, the feeling of having to pass multiple BMs in a short period, and the sensation of not being able to complete a BM.  Risk factors for a weak pelvic floor include:

    • Pregnancy and childbirth
    • Radiation
    • Obesity
    • Chronic constipation

    Notice an Unusual Odor?

    Sometimes a new, more foul-smelling odor, accompanied by an abnormal BM, may indicate that infection is present. Or it could signify an issue with your diet, immune reaction, or disease of the colon, stomach, or small intestine.

    If unusual odors persist, talk with your doctor.

    How Often Should I “Go”?

    The number of times you have a BM during the day is greatly affected by the food you eat, particularly the amount of fiber you ingest. There is no clearly accepted number of BMs a person has to have. Most people have 1 or 2 BMs a day. On the other hand, having three soft movements a day could be normal for some people. If you feel like you're evacuating well, it's normal for you.

    However, if you’re experiencing a single BM once every three or four days, or worse, a high-fiber diet and plenty of water can frequently help.

    Any change in your stool that lasts more than a week may be concerning and you should consult your physician if this is the case.

    The Wisdom Behind “An Apple a Day”... and Exercise

    Your mother was right: eat your fruits and vegetables. They'll help protect you against colorectal cancer and allow you to have regular stools. I usually tell people about the benefits of high-fiber cereal, beans, salad, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and popcorn—all very good for you. Of course, a high-fiber diet also helps lower cholesterol, control blood sugar, and achieve blood levels which may translate to reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and all cancers.

    And, although it's not well understood how, we know that exercise can help protect against colon cancer.  Exercise can help prevent obesity and diabetes, which are risk factors for colon cancer.  This likely results from some combination of how you ingest nutrients and how those nutrients are then metabolized during activity.

    When to See a Doctor

    If you’re having issues with bowel movements, consult your doctor to record a good history of your intake, environmental factors, and other risk factors.

    Sometimes treatment involves screening for colorectal cancer, getting blood work or stool tests. Other times, if warranted, we may perform a colonoscopy.

    Here at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we’ll use all the tools at our disposal to help treat and beat the problem.

    Our goal is always to help get you back to enjoying your normal life.

    Concerned about your bowel movements?

    Our specialists are here to help.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment

  • March 19, 2020

    By MedStar Health

    Whether playing indoors at the gym or outdoors on the asphalt, basketball-minded weekend warriors must be sure to take proper care of their feet and ankles.

    What Are the Top Three Basketball Foot and Ankle Injuries?

    #1: Ankle Sprains

    Ankle sprains are the most frequent basketball injury. High ankle sprains typically have associated fractures as well. And if a patient’s ligaments are torn or stretched out, that patient is at increased risk not only for chronic pain but also for further injury and falls. All ankle sprains must be addressed in a very comprehensive manner.

    #2: Jones Fracture

    The second most frequent basketball injury is a Jones fracture, occurring at the outside of the foot. These fractures are particularly painful and inconvenient, as they often require surgery and generally take a long time to heal. NBA players Yao Ming, Kevin Durant, and Bill Walton have all suffered Jones fractures.

    #3: Stress Fractures

    Stress fractures are another common injury of the feet and ankles—for example, fractures of the metatarsal bones. Stress fractures are quite common in our weekend warriors. While more conditioned players do get stress fractures, they are less prone to this type of injury.

    How Weekend Warriors Can Prevent Injury

    Weekend warriors—those who play rarely or infrequently—can guard against foot and ankle injuries by not playing at 100% the first time they step onto the court. Looking forward to a game of hoops? Be sure you:

    • Are in good athletic condition
    • Warm up appropriately
    • Strengthen certain muscles
    • Wear appropriate footgear

    If you've had an injury in the past, don’t be discouraged. Embrace your health and be proactive about it. Maintaining daily physical activity is important, and prior injury should not be a deterrent. Just take common-sense steps toward injury prevention.

    Weekend warriors—those who play rarely or infrequently—can guard against foot and ankle injuries. Learn how from Dr. Tammer Elmarsafi. via @MedStarWHC

    Click to Tweet

    Be safe and know your limitations.  Speaking as a former track athlete, I have adjusted my own running regimen because I am aware of my required recovery time, where injuries tend to flare for me, and what type of running surfaces best prevent those injuries.

    Athletes, weekend warriors, and others must recognize their individual limitations. Understand how the body's natural course of aging may be impacting your functional abilities over time. That awareness and knowledge will guide you on what you can and cannot do.

    Stretching is the Key

    Every year, Spring arrives and inspires people to become more physically active. This is great, but remember, it’s important to stretch the muscles effectively before exercise.

    Stretching does not mean invest a speedy two minutes to shake everything out and jump into your exercise. Rather, consciously focus on each muscle group. Start at the hips and work your way down. Complete the range-of-motion exercises for each joint. Stretch the lower back, hips, knees, and associated muscle groups, like the hamstrings and quads.

    Find your comfortable stretching position, and then push it just a little bit further. If you can hold the stretch for even 30 seconds, that's fine; over time, you will find you can hold each stretch longer and more effectively.

    The Surprisingly Short Lifespan of Athletic Shoes

    Preventing sports-related injuries calls for the right footgear, as former Duke University basketball phenom Zion Williamson knows all too well. In a 2019 game against the University of North Carolina, his shoe split at the seams just as he planted his left foot to pivot. He hit the floor and sustained a knee injury. Williamson’s story is just one of many cautionary tales. Wearing the right athletic shoes—and attention to wear-and-tear on those shoes—helps athletes and weekend warriors alike prevent injury.

    Here’s a fact that shocks many people: Most athletic shoes last only about six months. Very active people and athletes who engage in regular, aggressive, strenuous activity should more than likely replace their athletic shoes as frequently as every three to four months.

    Consider the physics: an athletic shoe sustains 100% of your body weight with each step, causing the material and structural integrity to deteriorate very quickly. Inserts and other structural components of the shoe change.

    To prevent injury, make sure your shoe gear is supportive and appropriate for the physical activity in which you are engaged. Also, the sooner you acknowledge that your athletic shoes must be replaced at least every six months, the less likely you are to become injured.

    Putting Your Feet First in Every Season

    In winter, many patients come to us because of falls on icy, snowy surfaces. In general, slips and falls can be avoided with shoe gear suited to slippery surfaces.

    The spring and fall months introduce other scenarios: people may begin to wear boots or hiking boots, although the weather may still be mild enough to engage in outdoor activities. Here again, injury can be caused by shoes that aren’t conducive to the activity at hand: For example, running in a hiking boot—or hiking in a running shoe—are not recommended.

    In the summertime, we see fall- and activity-related injuries in which flip flops and sandals did not offer enough support. Also, uneven surfaces—like sand, grass, or rocks—call for even more support, particularly to the ankle, to prevent an ankle sprain.

    MedStar Health: Medical Provider for Pros and Kids

    At MedStar Health, we are fortunate to have all the components of a comprehensive medical team. In fact, we are the official medical team of the Baltimore Ravens, the Washington Capitals, the Baltimore Orioles, the Washington Wizards, and the Washington Mystics.

    Our team also has a great deal of knowledge specific to younger athletes. I tend to hear from parents who say “I wish I’d scheduled a visit with you sooner.” Treatment of a still-developing child—perhaps for an injury or fracture that could potentially impact their growth—must be handled by a specialist who understands the nuances of such injuries.

    Mobility and Quality of Life

    As we go on with our daily activities throughout the year, quality of life is highly dependent on mobility. The more independently mobile you are, the more enjoyably active your life can be.

    And for basketball players, weekend warriors, and everyone in between, mobility begins with a critical platform—the feet. My greatest motivation is keeping someone pain free and helping them function at their highest capacity. It's what I love and why I love it.

    Foot or ankle injury?

    Our specialists can help you get back on your feet.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment

  • March 17, 2020

    By Patrice Casey

    Women are good at so many things, including placing others’ priorities ahead of our own. Unfortunately, this can have serious consequences on our own health.

    At age 65, I had put off having a colonoscopy more than 20 years after the recommended colonoscopy age guidelines for this screening procedure. Sure, I scheduled my annual physical exam and made sure to get frequent mammograms, but other screenings like having a colonoscopy were too easy to overlook. That was until a chance encounter with Cherrell Freeman-Davis, a colleague of mine at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, proved lifesaving.

    Related reading: Cherrell’s Story: My Colonoscopy Confession

    The Push I Needed

    As the creative services manager in Communications and Public Affairs at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, I see the amazing care our medical team provides each and every day. I just never imagined that I would be on the receiving end of that care.

    Let me take you back to 2019. As I was dropping off some colonoscopy brochures with Cherrell, a practice administrator in the Department of Gastroenterology, we struck up a conversation. Cherrell asked me if I had ever had a colonoscopy. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had managed to avoid having the screening procedure.

    I didn’t have any good reasons for not having a colonoscopy. I did not have a family history of colorectal cancer. And, I wasn’t having any stomach or digestive problems or symptoms of anything serious. Quite honestly, I just had never taken the time. It sounds cliché, but I was too busy taking care of others.

    Cherrell told me about an upcoming Saturday colorectal screening event on campus and encouraged me to register. In fact, she jokingly said that I couldn’t leave her office without signing up. Her not-so-subtle push that day likely saved my life. Before I left Cherrell’s office, I was registered for my first colonoscopy with gastroenterologist Z. Jennifer Lee, MD.

    The Colonoscopy Prep Was Easy

    Like so many others, I had always heard preparing for a colonoscopy was worse than the actual procedure. Fortunately, I have a stomach of iron. Plus, I received some very helpful tips on prepping for my colonoscopy from other hospital co-workers, including:

    • Making sure the prep solution is cold
    • Drinking the solution through a straw
    • Putting a lemon drop in your mouth to help with the taste

    Prepping for my colonoscopy seemed easy, and I was up early in the morning for my procedure. I had signed up for the first appointment of the screening event, so I could get in and out quickly and be on with the rest of my day. As I arrived at the hospital, I wasn’t nervous. I thought of the procedure as something I could check off my “to-do” list.

    The Results Shocked Even Me

    Dr. Lee came to see me shortly after I woke up from my colonoscopy. She started the conversation by saying that everything went fine, but then I heard her say something about finding 19 polyps. “Nineteen?” I asked. I was in disbelief.

    The polyps were all concentrated in one part of my colon, and the polyps were removed. But Dr. Lee went on to say she had found something else: a rare growth in the last part of the small intestine called a neuroendocrine tumor. She told me the tumor would need to be removed and referred me to colorectal surgeon Dr. Brian Bello.

    I went home and tried to resist the temptation of extensively researching information on endocrine tumors online. Actually, I stopped my online research after I saw a statistic that said 90 percent of patients require additional care after surgery, including radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Despite reading that information, I was still feeling positive and didn’t want those details to affect my upbeat outlook.

    Two days later, I received a call from Dr. Bello’s office to set up a consultation appointment. “Great,” I thought. I could quickly run over to Dr. Bello’s office here on the hospital’s campus and then get back to work. I scheduled my surgery for late April, after a planned beach trip that I had been looking forward to. Later, I realized the irony in prioritizing work and other commitments over taking the time I needed to make sure my health was in check.

    After completing several pre-op requirements, including CT and PET scans, I was ready for surgery. The neuroendocrine tumor was removed through minimally invasive surgery, and only two days later, I was ready to go home. While everything had gone smoothly, Dr. Bello referred me on to see oncologist

    Dr. David Perry.

    I was nervous about the thought of having radiation or chemotherapy, although no one ever said the word “cancer” to me at any time during my experience. During my appointment with Dr. Perry, he recommended I have a colonoscopy in the fall as a precaution but said that I didn’t need any additional follow-up care. I felt so lucky that I considered buying a lottery ticket!

    A chance conversation about #colonoscopy may have saved Patty’s life. Learn about doctors’ shocking discovery during her screening and why Patty feels very lucky today. via @MedStarWHC
    Click to Tweet

    My Advice to Others

    Looking back, I wish I would have scheduled a colonoscopy sooner. I realize my situation could have turned out much differently. I am grateful for the excellent care I received at MedStar Washington Hospital Center during each step of the process—from the nurses who took my vital signs to the doctors who carefully and compassionately explained my care plan.

    And I still think about that conversation with Cherrell that started me on this lifesaving journey. Had it not been for that fateful talk, I might be sharing a very different story with you now.

    I think all of us owe it to ourselves to make sure we take care of our own health needs. Getting a colonoscopy takes just a few hours out of your life, but the results can be life-changing. Take a couple of minutes and schedule yours today.

    Time for your colonoscopy?

    Schedule a consultation today.

    Call 202-644-9526 or  Request an Appointment