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Driver Lifestyles

Occupational Health Hazards: The Left Side of a Driver’s Body

By Sandy Long
Posted Jan 8th 2014 4:11AM

Drivers, especially truckers of all sorts, have something in common; health hazards that may only affect the left side of the body. The sun, pressure and overuse can not only cause terrific pain and paralysis, one hazard can cause death.

gogoweb-web_1.jpgStarting with the head, face, left arm and shoulder, there are three hazards that are caused by the sun. The first disorder is rare. Called unilateral dermatoheliosis, it causes one side of the face to age faster than the other. Mainly found in drivers, or others, who have only one side of their face exposed to high Ultra Violet rays; it is incurable. Symptoms are:

Dyspigmentation and the formation of wrinkles around regions of skin commonly exposed to sun, namely the eyes, mouth and forehead.

Spider veins on face and neck

Loss of color and fullness in lips

Symptoms of photoaging attributed to prolonged exposure to UV

Wrinkles deepen and forehead frown lines can be seen even when not frowning.

Telangiectasias most commonly seen around the nose, cheeks and chin.

Skin becomes leathery and laxity occurs.

Solar Lentigines (age spots) appears on the face and hands.

Possibly pre-cancerous red and scaly spots (actinic keratoses) appear.

Cutaneous malignancies

Closely related to unilateral dermatoheliosis is Favre-Racouchot Syndrome . The sun also causes this syndrome or disease. Symptoms include widening of the hair follicles causing eruptions of a horn like material and can show open sores. Yellowing, thickening skin is also common. Favre-Racouchot Syndrome can affect the face, neck and forearms.

The big C shows up as skin cancer and Melanoma and affects the head, face, neck, left arm, left shoulder and left side of the back. (this does not mean that it cannot show up elsewhere, but we are talking about occupational hazards) Because of exposure to ultra violet rays from the sun coming thru the side windows of the truck, the left side is more affected than the right that is protected by the truck’s interior.

Cervical-Cancer-Pictures-thumb_1.jpgWhile many skin cancers are not fatal if found and treated quickly, if left too long, the cancer can spread or grow large enough to affect major organs and parts of the body. One should look at one’s face, neck, arms and shoulders in the mirror often to keep track of any changes in the skin. Bumps, rough spots, moles that change shape or color and open lesions are all signals that something is not right. If any of the above are found, get yourself to a doctor and have them check it out. If caught quickly, treatment is usually simple and is done in the doctor’s office; left too long may require major surgery and treatment that is more radical.

With all types of sun related disorders, a good sunscreen is suggested. Window tinting is a good option to reduce the risk of skin cancer if you run in states that allow tinting. Some drivers use those window shades that mothers use in cars to keep the sun off their babies; however, if you try this, make sure the sight lines to your mirrors are clear.

Continuous pressure against nerves can cause nerve damage, paralysis, muscle loss and loss of dexterity. The most common nerve damage found in truckers is ulna nerve damage or neuropathy that affects the left hand and arm. Truckers laying their arms on window edges or arm-rests that are an improper height cause this. Ulna nerve damage can also be caused by hitting the elbow sharply in a fall.

The ulna nerve comes from the spine across the collarbone and down the arm to the hand. The ulna nerve is closest to the skin and at most risk of damage at the inner edge of the bottom of the elbow, next to the funny bone. If you feel your elbow, there is the sharp bone then a dip inside next to it, this is where the ulna nerve is located.

E41A0434_1.jpgThe first indication of ulna nerve damage is pain in the elbow next to the bone. The pain may radiate up or down the arm and can affect the shoulder. If nothing is done, then the pain will start in the wrist and hand. The ring and little finger will tingle, ache and feel numb at times. Soon it will become difficult to spread the fingers and muscle loss will be noted in the area between the thumb and forefinger, the palm and the outside edge of the hand. The ring finger and the little finger will curl inwards and when the hand is held flat, the fingers will naturally appear higher than the knuckles in the hand. While grip is not usually lost, the ability to use the fingers will be affected, such as when trying to pick up something small, using a fingernail clipper or other tools that require applied pressure. Feeling is lost in both the hand and the outer fingers, so carrying something might become difficult.

If identified and treated early on, ulna nerve neuropathy is correctable. Treatment is training one’s self not to rest one’s arm on whatever is doing the damage and/or support bracing for the elbow. A visit to a physical therapist can give some exercises to do also. Surgery is an option for more severe cases. However, once muscle loss occurs, there is little to be done.

Left shoulder damage is caused by something all drivers do, but may not understand that they are doing it or why. All roads are pitched to the right for water drain off; in addition, trucks are set to pull slightly to the right in case the driver nods off. These two things cause a driver constantly correct the truck to the left putting repetitive strain on the left shoulder.

To counteract the effect of this repetitive movement, every fifteen to twenty minutes, a driver should ‘rest’ their left shoulder. This can be done simply by using the left hand to do something different from gripping the steering wheel for a few seconds.

As with any health issue, if something is hurting or looks odd, get to a doctor and have it checked out. Do not wait until something develops that can jeopardize your career or your life.

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