Hipsters take note: Wearing skinny jeans could actually cause bodily harm.
Scientists recently documented a case of a 35-year-old woman whose legs had swelled up so bad — and whose ankles had become so weak as a result — that she couldn't walk. At the hospital, doctors had to cut off her pants to remove them from her distended legs.
Compartment syndrome, a condition that results from increased pressure in a confined body space, like, from wearing skinny jeans.
The study, hilariously titled "Fashion victim: rhabdomyolysis and bilateral peroneal and tibial neuropathies as a result of squatting in 'skinny jeans,'" was published Monday, June 22, in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.
At the hospital, the woman told doctors she'd spent the day in a pair of extremely tight pants. She'd reportedly been squatting and emptying cupboards while helping a family member who was moving when she began to feel extreme pain and discomfort. A medical exam revealed signs of nerve and muscle damage in her legs.
The injury kept her from being able to walk for days, highlighting the hidden dangers of hipster fashion.
"I would certainly say, be cautious about wearing skinny jeans when doing this sort of activity," study co-author Thomas Kimber, a neurologist at Royal Adelaide Hospital and the University of Adelaide, in Australia, who treated the woman, told Business Insider.
So if your plans include squatting for long periods at a time, maybe consider swapping the skinnies for a pair of equally-fashionable leggings.
A walk in the park that turned into a hospital trip
The woman told doctors that her jeans began to feel tighter and more uncomfortable as the day went on. By the time she went for a walk in the park that evening, she noticed her feet beginning to feel numb. Soon she had trouble lifting them.
Within a few hours, she collapsed, lying on the ground for several hours before she was able to crawl to the side of the road and hail a taxi to take her to the hospital, Kimber said.
When he and his colleagues examined the woman, they found her lower legs were incrediby swollen, especially below the knees. So swollen, in fact, that hospital staff "had to cut her jeans off her," Kimber said. The woman had severe weakness in her calves and problems moving or feeling her feet, he added.
Medical tests revealed that the woman had abnormally high levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, which can be a sign of muscle damage and can, if left untreated for long periods, harm the kidneys. Luckily, the woman's kidney function was normal. A CT scan revealed she had low muscle mass — worse on the right side — suggesting signs of muscle damage.
Other tests showed that the woman had poor function in the two main nerves in the calf, the common peroneal nerve and the tibial nerve.
Since being treated with fluids and rest, the woman has made a full recovery, said Kimber.
Could this happen to anyone?
This type of lower leg nerve injury is often caused by compression of the nerves near the top of the calf bones, such as from prolonged squatting.
In the woman's case, wearing skinny jeans probably made the problem worse by building up pressure in her legs, the researchers said.
"If she’d been wearing loose, flowing trousers, the muscles could have swelled outward," Kimber said. But in the skinny jeans, her swollen muscles "had nowhere to go, except down onto the nerves and the blood vessels," he said.
There have been a handful of reports in which wearing tight pants have compressed nerves in the groin and caused numbness in the thigh. But as far as the researchers know, this was the first report that wearing tight jeans caused damage to these particular nerves and muscles.
There's still no word on the health risks of wearing plaid shirts or thick glasses, however.