New age lifestyle disorders


This is the age of lifestyle disorders with hypertension, diabetes, obesity becoming all too common and familiar terms. More recently, the increasing use of gadgets coupled with a sedentary lifestyle has given rise to a set of new age lifestyle disorders. Here are a few:

1. Carpal tunnel syndrome: Do you experience a tingling pain or numbness in the thumb, index or middle finger? If so, you are probably in for carpal tunnel syndrome. A painful disorder of the hand and fingers, it is caused by pressure on the median nerve on the wrist. “Symptoms occur most often early in the morning or during the night and may wake people up,” says Dr Deepak Sharan, consultant in orthopaedics, RECOUP Neuromusculoskeletal Rehabilitation Centre, Bengaluru.

These symptoms may occur with activities such as driving, writing or other actions involving significant hand-use. The syndrome has been commonly observed among computer professionals. A study titled Computer Professionals and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome conducted among computer professionals in Chennai revealed that one in eight computer professionals runs the risk of developing this condition. The study was published in the 2006 issue of International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics.

It has been calculated that the fingers of typists who type 60 words per minute may collectively exert as much as 25 tons of pressure each day, says Sharan. Excessive text messaging can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, studies suggest. So, beware when you spend hours on your swanky smart phone.

Tips for prevention

•For the laptop, use an external keyboard and mouse, placed just above the lap level. Use a laptop stand or place the laptop on books so that the topmost part of the screen is at eye level.

•The keyboard and mouse should be placed just above the level of the lap. The elbow should be kept close to the body and should make an angle of around 100 degrees. For most people, this means using a tray.


•Lower the armrests to the thigh level and do not rest the elbow while typing. If that is not possible, throw the armrests away.

•Sit with your back supported on the chair’s backrest with thighs sloping down slightly so that the hips are higher than the knees.

•The wrist must be unsupported while typing and do not use gel pads as wrist rests.

•Tuck in the chin so that ears, shoulders, elbows and hips meet an imaginary straight line.

•Take microbreaks of five seconds every five minutes and macrobreaks of two minutes every 30 minutes.

•Practice preventive stretches.

2. Desk derriere: Spending long hours at your desk? You could be risking your figure. Your bottoms are getting bigger—a condition called desk derriere. A study by Tel Aviv University has revealed that fat cells thrive in the buttocks of inactive people causing thick layers of fat to develop deep inside the muscle tissue. Sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise and unhealthy diets contribute to addition of fat, says Dr Ajaya Kashyap, director, cosmetic and plastic surgery, Fortis Memorial and Research Institute.

The three key muscles that give our backsides their shape are gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Sitting for long can cause the gluteal muscles to shrink, leading to the sagging butts.

This is more likely to affect women. So ladies, get off your seats and move around. Also, practice some simple desk exercises to counter this cosmetic problem.

3. Keratoconus: Cornea, the transparent outermost layer of the eye, is round. Now experts say the shape of the cornea is changing with changes in lifestyle. In recent times, keratoconus, a progressive eye disease, has been affecting our vision and, in turn, basic activities like reading or driving. In keratoconus, the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. This cone shape deflects light as it enters the eye, causing distorted vision. Poor vision (blurred vision, double or ghost vision), frequent change of glasses, excessive rubbing of eyes are common symptoms.

"Common among youngsters aged 18-35 years, keratoconus has been on the rise with majority of the cases due to excessive exposure to computer screens and electronic gadgets," says Dr Rohit Shetty, ophthalmologist, Nararyana Nethralaya. "As a precautionary measure, visit an eye doctor once in six months if you observe symptoms or use computers for more than six hours a day."

4. Computer vision syndrome: Dry, itchy eyes and headaches. How many of us put up with this on a regular basis? This is very common among those who work on digital screens and computers continuously and strain eyes for long. Studies suggest that this vision problem arises due to reduced blink rate or incomplete blinks. "This syndrome is also on the rise," says Shetty. He recommends regular eye check-up and use of lubricating eyedrops to prevent dry eyes.

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