Compartment syndrome is a condition manifesting through swelling of a certain part of one’s body, where the pressure created from the swelling blocks the blood supply to the area, disallowing oxygen and nutrients to reach it. Bearing in mind that forearms, lower legs and other body areas are divided in tissue compartments by fibrous bands which are inflexible, this state of affairs does not accommodate to the swelling well. Thus, as the swelling progresses, the compartment syndrome becomes worse, affecting the muscles and the nerves in the area, leading to malfunction or total cessation of functioning.
Apart from forearms and lower legs are the primary risk groups for developing compartment syndrome, this condition may appear in hands and feet too. If the compartment syndrome stems from an injury, it is considered acute. On the other hand, wear and tear due to athletic performance leads to chronic compartment syndrome.
Reasons behind Compartment Syndrome
As it was mentioned above, pressure of certain swellings which take place due to injury affects the surrounding tissue negatively, leading to compartment syndrome. In order for this condition to be diagnosed, this pressure needs to be over 30 to 45 mmHg, even though other measures can be used too.
When this condition progresses or is left untreated, the symptoms such as pain and swelling increase, leading to death of the metabolism in the area. Basically, due to the lack of oxygen, the muscles die and contract leading to numbness and weakness spreading onto other parts of the body, potentially triggering a necessity of limb amputation.
Sometimes, injuries do not need to happen in order for the compartment syndrome to take place. Rather, one may be bedridden for a long time, facing the swelling due to pressure of the limbs onto the surface beneath them, blocking blood supply.
Also, this condition may appear once blood supply is restored to a previously blocked area. Burning of the skin, tight bandages or casts, snake bites or anabolic steroids, all belong to the list of possible causes of the compartment syndrome too.
Finally, athletes, especially runners are prone to developing this syndrome since they tend to exercise excessively, causing their muscles to swell because of the repetitive motions they have to endure. Here, nerves get inflamed and blood supply gets cut, leading to pain and discomfort.
Signs of Compartment Syndrome
The affected area may appear to be shiny, swollen and a bit bruised, leading to pain during movement. Finally, muscle bulging and numbness are also commonly sensed.