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Men feel the squeeze, too

Consumer Reports News: April 07, 2010 02:05 PM

Women have been feeling the pinch of fashion ever since the early 1800’s when corsets were used to slenderize the female silhouette. And today’s no different—it took just as long for Scarlett O’Hara to squeeze into her corset as it takes women today to wriggle into a body slimmer. So, it’s no surprise that ladies have taken to wearing skinny jeans without batting a Latisse-enhanced eyelash, often paring them with tumble-inducing four-inch stilettos. Besides sacrificing both stride and pride, fashion-driven women are also risking a troubling mix of health dangers. Nevertheless, as long as trend-setters like Jennifer Lopez perform in teetering heels and body-hugging cat suits, and Today Show host Kathy Lee Gifford admits to sleeping in her Spanx, mere mortal women will be willing to put up with the likes of throbbing bunions, burning thighs, dangerous blood clots and painful bladder infections.

But guys, your garb can cause a load of trouble too. Last July, the Wall Street Journal reported sales of Rock & Republic skinny jeans for men rose 26 percent over the previous year. They’re practically a Jonas Brothers staple and are worn by celebs like Zac Efron, Ashton Kutcher, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt. Guys, it seems, are no less fad-conscious than gals. But men in tight pants are at risk for their own health problems.

Just as with women, the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve (LFCN) in the side of the thigh can be easily pinched, causing numbness, tingling and pain, especially in men who pack their weight in the belly or tighten their belts. The sciatic nerve in the butt and back of the thigh can also be easily damaged, more so when men carry a bulky wallet in the rear pocket. Sciatica can also result in debilitating weakness of the leg. Slacks that are too tight or too small can interfere with digestion, too—causing the "Tight Pants Syndrome"—leading to heartburn and abdominal discomfort.

Snug trousers have also been linked to male infertility because higher scrotal temperatures can spoil semen quality. If that’s not cause enough for concern, lack of aeration can also produce " jock itch" a fungal infection that crops up in sweaty, overly-snug privates. Guys, if that risk finally gets you to take off your tight-fitting pants, make sure can you do so without a struggle: excessive pulling can damage the hair follicles on your legs and lead to folliculitis with nasty pustules that can itch or burn.

And tightness "south of the equator" isn’t the only thing men should be worried about. Tight ties can raise intraocular pressure in both normal men and glaucoma patients, as a study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology revealed several years ago. Shirts can also be a problem if the collars are too tight. Excessive pressure on the carotid arteries can cause the blood pressure to fall or the heart rate to slow dramatically and lead to fainting spells.

If you ask me, Rhett Butler had the right idea there…donning a loose wing-collared shirt and roomy ascot, he left the swooning to the ladies.

Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports medical adviser

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