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Part of 100+ Q&A about legs – See all.

What types of leg ailment can result from wearing tight clothing?

Skinny Jeans, Tight Pants and Digestive Issues

Tight clothing that pushes into the abdomen, everything from jeans to belts and compression undergarments, can be problematic, “particularly and especially when somebody overeats,” says Jamie Koufman, MD, a reflux specialist and author of Dropping Acid: The Reflux Diet Cookbook and Cure based in New York City. Pressure on the stomach, known as intragastric pressure or intra-abdominal pressure, can trigger acid reflux — pushing stomach acid back up through the lower esophageal junction, where the esophagus and the stomach meet, causing heartburn. Acid reflux is common, and not just for older adults, according to Dr. Koufman, who says about 37 percent of the 20 to 30-year-old age group gets it. Even someone who isn’t prone to acid reflux can develop reflux if they wear a tight article of clothing often over a two-week period, she says. Snug-fitting corset-style shirts can have a similar effect, says Koufman. “It’s not a good idea to wear something tight to a dinner, particularly if it’s late in the day as well.” And if you must wear compression undergarments under a dress or a tight belt with a new pair of pants, Koufman suggests eating smaller, less fatty meals to reduce the risk of reflux, and trying to loosen things up after you eat, if you can.

Compression Undergarments and Nerve Pain

Designed to smooth out flab and bulging tummies, body-shapers like compression undergarments and control-top pantyhose have a downside. “Tight garments on the lower abdominal region and the upper thigh can cause a condition called meralgia paresthetica, irritation of the nerves in the front and outer aspects of the thigh,” says Orly Avitzur, MD, a neurologist and medical adviser to Consumer Reports who practices in Carmel, N.Y. “We’ve known about this for many years and used to see it in women who wore girdles. Now we see it in other compression garments, which have become quite a common fashion accessory. So we’re seeing more and more of that in this generation of women who are trying to look sleek in their clothing.” Symptoms include burning, pain, tingling in the thigh area and hypersensitivity to the touch, according to Dr. Avitzur.

Irritating Fabrics and Allergic Reactions

Certain kinds of fabrics are more likely to cause irritation and allergic reactions, says Neeta Ogden, MD, an adult and pediatric allergist in private practice in New York City. “Interestingly wool fabrics in particular can cause allergic reactions in people, typically called contact dermatitis,” Dr. Ogden says. “It’s an itchy rash that can sometimes even have bumps on it and seems chronic.” People who have sensitive skin or a history of eczema are at a higher risk of irritation from these fabrics, Ogden says, as are people who have allergies in general.

Synthetic Materials, and Irritation and InfectionClothing dye is a common cause of allergic skin rash, says Ogden, “especially blue and orange dyes in clothing and other items.” Elastics on socks, underwear and bras can also cause rashes in some people because of the rubber, she says. Particularly if you find you react adversely to these dyes, Ogden recommends washing new clothes before wearing them for the first time. Synthetic materials like nylon and Lycra can also cause problems when used in underwear. Unlike breathable cotton, these fabrics keep in moisture and heat — providing a breeding ground for yeast infections.

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