Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a relatively common condition, in which pressure on the median nerve at the wrist causes numbness, nerve tingling and muscle weakness in the hand. This condition tends to affect adults, especially women between 30 and 60 years of age. Treatment is usually achieved through splint wearing, and surgery if necessary. Most people recover well from this condition.

Risks

The reasons why some people are susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome are not well understood. This condition is quite common during pregnancy. Other things that increase the chance of getting carpal tunnel syndrome include obesity, a previous injury to the hand or wrist, and some medical conditions, such as diabetes, low thyroid function and rheumatoid arthritis. Repetitive wrist movements, and the usage of vibrating hand tools can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. People between the ages of 30 and 60 years tend to get carpal tunnel syndrome most often, and this condition is more common in women than men.

Symptoms

The typical symptoms are pain, numbness and tingling of the palm and fingers of the affected hand. Other symptoms include poor hand grip, problems with fine finger movements and weakness of the thumb. These symptoms usually worsen at night or in the morning and affect the first three and a half fingers (thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger) on the affected hand.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made based on the medical history and physical examination. Wrist X-rays, and muscle and nerve function tests might be ordered to rule out other possible causes, such as arthritis and other muscular or neurological problems.

Treatment

Treatment includes wearing splints for several weeks to reduce pressure on the nerve. Steroid injections to reduce swelling around the nerve may be helpful. Some people get relief from simple pain-relieving medications, such as ibuprofen. If the symptoms persist, surgery might be needed to relieve the pressure on the median nerve.

Prevention

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be partly prevented through the use of ergonomic equipment (like wrist braces, mouse pad, split keyboards, etc) and avoiding repetitive stress or strain to the wrist.

Other names for carpal tunnel syndrome

  • median nerve compression