Skinny Jeans and High Heels: What Health Dangers Lurk in Your Closet?

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High fashion has a cost — and it’s not just on the price tag.  Sky-high stilettos and skintight jeans may actually jeopardize your health, say experts who cite various health conditions, from bacterial infections to leg numbness, as evidence of the hazards of being fashion forward.

(MORE: Can High Heels Trigger Migraines?)

Here are a few fashion risks to be aware of, so you can avoid the worst faux pas of them all: self-injury.

Fashion culprit: Tight jeans
Health risk: Squeezing into tight pants (or cinching belts too tight) can cause nerve compression, numbness and digestive issues. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, internist Dr. Octavio Bessa of Stamford, Conn., coined the term tight-pants syndrome in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1993, after seeing many patients with abdominal discomfort, distension and heartburn due to ill-fitting clothes. According to Bessa’s report, “the diagnosis can be made easily in the office by comparing the size of the trousers with the abdominal girth. There is usually a discrepancy of 7.5 centimeters or more.”

Fashion culprit: Stilettos
Health risk: The narrow toe box and high heels of stiletto shoes wreak a lot of havoc, including bunions, hammer toes, nerve damage, bone death, stress fractures and ankle sprains. As New York City–based podiatrist, John E. Mancuso told me (at More magazine) last March, the higher the heel, the more a person’s weight is thrown forward and placed on the balls of the feet, which causes pain. “The key is either limiting stiletto wear or finding a shoe with strong arch support and good weight distribution,” Mancuso said.

Fashion culprit: Thong underwear
Health risk: Rough seams can cause chafing and small breaks in sensitive skin. This allows for fungal growth and bacterial infections, according to Dr. Deborah Coady of SoHo Obstetrics and Gynecology in New York City, a problem that may be exacerbated by tight-fitting skinny jeans. And, as Coady told More, the “heat and friction of sexual activity can make these infections worse.” She recommends protecting the skin around clothing edges with products like Aquaphor, vitamin-E oil, safflower oil or olive oil.

Fashion culprit: Neckties
Health risk: Tight ties and shirt collars (67% of men buy shirts that are too small at the neck) can cut off circulation to the head, causing blurry vision, headaches and tingly ears, the Wall Street Journal reports. They can also limit neck movement and increase muscle tension in the back and shoulders. Worse yet, since ties aren’t washed as frequently as other clothing, they may be laden with disease-causing germs. Another good reason to go casual.

Fashion culprit: Earrings
Health risk: The Wall Street Journal reports that about 20% of body piercings develop a bacterial infection, according to a review by Northwestern University dermatologists. Also, any jewelry or accessory that contains nickel — even in tiny amounts — can cause rashes in people with nickel allergy (you might develop one in adulthood, without warning). Further, heavy, statement earrings, if worn too often, can stretch out the earring hole making it difficult to wear studs, or possibly even tear through the earlobe altogether, an injury that takes a long time to repair and heal.

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