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Painful Fashion: When Trendy = Torture

High heels, huge handbags, tight jeans, and decorative contacts may be in style, but they also can take a toll on your body.

Painful Fashion Choice No. 1: Heavy Purses continued...

How much is too much? "I would propose that anything that causes pain is too heavy," Benson says.

Carrying a heavy purse won't cause permanent skeletal deformity, he says. "It just hurts a lot" because the shoulder muscles bear constant stress.

Some tips for preventing pain:

  • If you carry a heavy purse, alternate it between both shoulders.
  • Switch your handbags so that you're not carrying a big purse every day. Or bring your big tote to the office, then remove essential items, such as a wallet and keys, and carry them within a smaller purse.
  • If you buy a big purse, choose one with wider straps, which helps distribute weight over a broader area of your shoulder, Benson suggests. For fashion-conscious women who prefer skinny straps, the thicker straps "may not be the best look," he concedes, but it could be a shoulder-saver.
  • Buy a backpack-style purse to better distribute the weight, suggests Carol Frey, MD, a Southern California orthopaedic surgeon. "If you have to carry a lot of stuff, I would invest in a very fashionable backpack."

Painful Fashion Choice No. 2: Tight Jeans and Undergarments

Fashion mavens may spend hours grazing the racks for the right pair of tight jeans. But these, too, can be a painful fashion choice, along with tight-fitting synthetic underwear, pantyhose, girdles, and body shapers. While tight garments can accentuate curves, they also boost the risk of vaginal yeast infections. Symptoms include pain, itching, burning, and abnormal discharge.

"Yeast, being a fungus, grows where it's warm and moist. If you have clothing that's tight-fitting and won't allow air circulation, that's where the problem is," says Josephine Von Herzen, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Salem Hospital in Salem, Ore., and a spokeswoman for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Tight garments also cause rubbing and irritation, she adds. "That can be pretty uncomfortable."

What can you do to cut your risk of yeast infections?

  • Avoid tight-fitting undergarments and pants. Find looser pants with a flattering cut.
  • Wear 100% cotton underwear. "Cotton is more absorbent than nylon or polyester," Von Herzen says.
  • Don't sleep in tight-fitting garments, or avoid wearing underwear while sleeping at night.
  • Don't wear pantyhose unless they have a cotton crotch.

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