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How skinny jeans landed a fashion victim in the hospital

Australian experts reported that a woman couldn’t walk after wearing a pair of tight denims all day
Could skinny jeans cause nerve damage? 03:26

Jeans that feel vacuum-sealed can suck the life out of the body.

A woman in Australia was brought to the hospital unable to walk and with severe swelling in both lower legs, after squatting in skinny jeans for much of the day.

This is the first instance of skinny jeans causing damage to the lower leg, according to a case study written by her doctors in the Neurology Unit at the Department of Medicine, University of Adelaide, and published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The doctors report that the 35-year-old woman was wearing tight-fitting skinny jeans while helping a friend pack and move for several hours. Later that evening, she tripped and fell because her feet were so numb she could not walk properly.

The woman said she was unable to stand up after falling because of the temporary paralysis and swelling. She lay in the same position for hours before she was brought to the hospital. Doctors at the Royal Adelaide Hospital had to cut off the skinny jeans in order to treat her legs.

"She wore such tight jeans that the muscles in her legs below her knees started to swell," Dr. Jaydeep Bhatt, clinical assistant professor of neurology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told CBS News. "That's what muscles do when they don't get blood. They start to burst, which is incredible. In this case, she got injured because a jean is not going to give in. It contained her expansion, or swelling, and she got injured."

When the woman squatted for an extended time, it created extreme compression on her legs. Increasing, painful swelling of the muscles put pressure on the nerves and filled the spaces or "compartments" around the muscle -- a condition called compartment syndrome.

"In order for you to squat, your muscles have to be closer together, so more muscle in less space" explained Bhatt, who was not involved in the woman's treatment. "It's the perfect storm when you're wearing insanely tight jeans to make bad things happen."

"You're essentially creating a situation almost like having a tourniquet on your arm if you were bleeding," CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula told "CBS This Morning." "This was really the extreme of something that could happen."

Severe compartment syndrome can require emergency surgery to open the thick fascia, tissues around the compartments, and relieve the pressure. If the muscle fibers start to burst and leak into the bloodstream, they can damage the kidney. The most serious cases of acute compartment syndrome can require amputation.

For the woman in this study, it took four days of bed rest and IV fluids in the hospital before she was mobile again. Doctors say she was fortunate that she had emergency intervention before the condition damaged her kidneys.

Skinny jeans or other very tight pants have been known to cause too much compression and affect the muscles, nerves or organs. Both men and women have reported complaints from extreme discomfort to digestion or groin problems to leg constriction. More often, Narula said, problems arise when clothing constricts the hip and pelvis area.

"The red flag signs are: Numbness and tingling that is new -- you didn't feel it before but you feel it now -- and it persists, and especially if it's accompanied by weakness, that's not good," said Bhatt. "When the leg starts to swell, you've missed the boat. Because by then, you already have compromised the blood supply to an area of the leg."

It might seem fashionable to squeeze into those skinny jeans, but try walking around, bending and stretching in them first to make sure the blood is moving too.

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