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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: https://bit.ly/3KbVUA1.
    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 05, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Congratulations to all MedStar researchers who had articles published in September 2019. 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 PubMed.gov here.

    Selected research:

    1. Future technology-enabled care for diabetes and hyperglycemia in the hospital setting.
      World Journal of Diabetes, 2019. DOI: 10.4239/wjd.v10.i9.473
      Montero AR, Dubin JS, Sack P, Magee MF.
    1. Advancements in Reconstructive Surgery Broaden Opportunities for Salvage of the Injured Lower Extremity.
      Annals of Plastic Surgery, 2019. DOI: 10.1097/SAP.0000000000001977
      Assi PE, Giladi AM.
    1. Clinical, Pathological, and Molecular Profiling of Radioactive Iodine Refractory Differentiated Thyroid Cancer.
      Thyroid, 2019. DOI:10.1089/thy.2019.0075
      Shobab L, Gomes-Lima C, Zeymo A, Feldman R, Jonklaas J, Wartofsky L, Burman KD.
    1. Lateral Transfer of the Flexor Digitorum Longus for Peroneal Tendinopathy.
      Foot & Ankle International, 2019. DOI:10.1177/1071100719853297
      Sherman TI, Koury K, Orapin J, Schon LC.
  • October 05, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Applications open for the 12th class of Teaching Scholars at MedStar Health

    The heart of the MedStar Teaching Scholars program is raising clinician educators to scholars of medical education by teaching educators from across MedStar Health how to apply research principles to medical education; become informed consumers of the medical education research literature; to be effective collaborators in medical education research; and to develop as a leader in academic medicine. GME program directors, core clinical teaching faculty, clerkship directors and other clinician educators (with limited research training or experience) in all specialties and professions are encouraged to apply.

    Applications are due on Friday, October 31 .
    Learn more about the program at www.MedStarHealth.org/TeachingScholars.

    Apply Today

    Applications open for the 7th class of Research Scholars at MedStar Health

    The MedStar Health Research Scholars programs aids in the development of a cadre of future academic leaders from disciplines across the entire system. Ideal Research Scholar applicants are early career MedStar clinicians seeking to develop significant personal scholarship in clinical or translational research, but with limited research experience, or with research experience in another field. A commitment to conducting mentored clinical or translational research with the ultimate goal of progressing to scholarly independence is the cornerstone of this program. 

    Applications are due on Friday, November 15.
    Learn more about the program at https://www.medstarhealth.org/education/faculty-development/research-scholars.

    Apply Today

  • October 05, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    Recently published research from MedStar Washington Hospital Center, MedStar Health Research Institute, Firefighters’ Burn and Surgical Research Laboratory, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and Georgetown University School of Medicine investigated the efficacy of lasers to minimize surgical scars when applied less than one month after operation. Laser scar therapies aim to treat undesirable results post operation. Prevention of visible scars is preferred over treatment, and studies examining the use of lase scar therapies at earlier stages have shown improved results.

    The study “Effectiveness of Early Laser Treatment in Surgical Scar Minimization: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” examined previously published literature in order to evaluate the efficacy of laser modalities in minimizing the undesirable characteristics of primary closed full-thickness surgical scars less than one month after operation. The literature review encompassed 8 articles in the systematic review and 4 in the meta-analysis.

    The primary outcome of the study was the quantitative statistical review of the available data generated from randomized controlled trials determining the efficacy of early laser therapies applied less than 1 month after operation to minimize surgical scars. Based on the data, the analysis showed statistically significant therapeutic effect (p < .05). Due to the nature of the research included in this analysis (a diverse set of applications and usage), this statistical finding can offer evidence for the use of laser modalities as a whole under this indication.

    The secondary outcome was a qualitative review where the validity of most individual studies included were determined to be “fair”. However, half of the studies included in the statistical review received “good” ratings.

    Within the analyzed studies, there were inconsistent conclusions of studies using pulsed-dye laser systems. This observation was based on the varied use of purpuric versus non-purpuric laser settings. Only non-purpuric settings have been found to be reliably effective, whereas purpuric settings have failed to show efficacy. The research team recommends the use of non-pupuric settings when treating early scars, as this method is also desirable to patients.

    In summary, the ability of lasers to achieve significant improvement after one session is ideal, alleviating the burden of repeat visits and providing a cost-effective means of minimizing scars. However, multiple scar treatments are often recommended for optimal results. Most patients prefer early treatment, as the scars are more amendable to treatment instead of waiting until they are hard, thick, and difficult to penetrate. The outcome supports the efficacy of lasers in minimizing primarily closed surgical scars when treated less than one month after surgery.

    The study team included Rhett A. Kent, MD, Jeffrey Shupp, MD, Stephen Fernandez, MPH, Nick Prindeze, BS; and Cynthia M.C. DeKlotz, MD.

    Dermatologic Surgery, DOI: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000001887

  • October 05, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health investigators examined the validity and reliability of the KNOW Diabetes test, a survival skill knowledge test used to evaluate the impact of diabetes education and research interventions in their study “Validity and Reliability of a (Brief) Diabetes ‘Survival Skills’ Knowledge Test.” Diabetes self-management education support (DSMES) may be defined as essential education that facilitates the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for safe and effective sort-term diabetes self-care.

    In the United States, there is a low rate of participation in diabetes self-management education support and lack of availability of short, easy-to-administer diabetes knowledge tests. This presents a need for a tool that can easily identify knowledge deficits to ensure the safety and effectiveness of diabetes self-care management among adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus where traditional diabetes self-management education support is not available. Managing diabetes is an important part of positive patient outcomes. The KNOW Diabetes knowledge test was developed with input from endocrinologists, certified diabetes educators, and patients in a US regional health care system. The test consists of questions from seven domains: nutrition and meal plan basics, blood glucose monitoring, glycemic targets, taking medications as prescribed, hyper- and hypoglycemia recognition and treatment, and when to seek medical help.

    This study recruited 280 adults with T2DM for a two-phase research study. In phase one, the 19-question diabetes knowledge test was administered to assess feasibility. Following analysis of phase one data, three questions were removed from the knowledge test due to high difficulty and two questions on insulin storage were combined into a single question. The revised KNOW Diabetes survey contained 15 questions and was completed by 227 participants. Most participants were older than 65 years, and 65% reported having diabetes for more than five years. 70% of participants were African American.

    The study results showed that patients who are older and have a lower level of education, have Medicaid or Medicare, and are without pain or numbness in the feet, scored significantly lower on the KNOW Diabetes test.  Test scores were higher among those who were younger, had a higher education level had a longer duration of diabetes and were non-Medicare or Medicaid insured.

    The KNOW Diabetes knowledge test is intended to identify knowledge deficits in diabetes self-management survival skills and the study results prove the validity and reliability of the test for use in a variety of nondiabetic specialty care settings as well as in the clinical care setting.

    The collaborative research team included Gretchen Youssef, MS, RD, CDE; Edward H. Ip, PhD; Michelle Magee, MD, MBBCh, BAO, LRCPSI; Shyh-Huei Chen, PhD; Amisha Wallia, MD, MS; Teresa Pollack, MS; Emilie Touma; Clayton Bourges, MS; Lynne Brecker, BSN, RN, CDE from the MedStar Diabetes Institute.

    The Diabetes Educator, DOI: 10.1177/0145721719828064

  • October 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    At MedStar Health, patient safety is our highest priority. The most effective way to reduce the risk of contracting influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated. Even if you received a vaccination last season, immunity decreases over time, and therefore you must be vaccinated on an annual basis.

    Vaccination of associates reduces the risk of transmitting the flu virus to patients, since healthcare workers are frequently linked as the source of flu in healthcare settings. You could have no flu symptoms and still be a carrier, and unknowingly spread it to patients, fellow co-workers, visitors, and your family.

    All MedStar associates, affiliated physicians, volunteers, students, contracted staff, and vendors are required to receive the influenza vaccination by December 4. If you are unable to receive vaccination due to medical contraindications and/or religious exemptions, you must submit an Influenza Vaccination Exemption Form by the October 31 deadline. To obtain an Influenza Vaccination Exemption Form, or more information about influenza vaccinations visit https://starport.medstar.net/go/EveryoneCounts.

    MedStar is committed to making the influenza vaccine as accessible to you as possible. Obtain your free flu vaccination from:

    • All Occupational Health offices across the system
    • Unit rounds in high-volume patient care areas
    • Peer immunizers
    • Clinics scheduled at various sites
    • MedStar Health Urgent Care locations

    Note: A valid MedStar ID must be presented in order to receive a free flu vaccination.
    PromptCare offices will submit documentation to Occupational Health.

     For more information about obtaining a flu vaccination, visit an Occupational Health office or go to https://starport.medstar.net/go/EveryoneCounts.

  • October 04, 2019

    By MedStar Health

    MedStar Health strives to provide associates with the tools and learning opportunities to succeed in the ever-changing healthcare industry. To accomplish this, associates are encouraged to take advantage of MedStar’s Educational Assistance program and unique partnerships with local universities and colleges, including Georgetown University. 

    The Georgetown University’s Executive Masters and Certificate programs address the growing need for sustainable improvements in patient safety and quality education. Through these valuable opportunities, students learn from national experts who have shaped the patient safety and quality landscape, and collaborate with other learners within the healthcare industry.

    Executive Masters Program in Clinical Quality, Safety and Leadership

    • Immerse yourself in advanced theory and concepts of healthcare quality, patient safety science, and organizational leadership
    • 16-month online program, with a four-day onsite networking opportunity held at Georgetown University in D.C.
    • Full-time or part-time enrollment available

    Executive Certificate in Patient Safety and Quality

    • Practice fundamental concepts of systems-thinking, improvement science, and data collection, organization, and analyses
    • Six-month online certificate

    Executive Certificate in Healthcare Safety and Leadership

    • Gain insight on how to become a leader in an ever-changing healthcare system
    • Six-month online certificate 

    Learn more about the programs and apply online

    Note: Participation in Georgetown University’s Executive Masters and Certificate programs may be eligible for Educational Assistance. Refer to your entity’s policy for more information.