Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful, progressive condition that occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed. The nerve may become compressed because it has swollen, the tendons are inflamed, or both.

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? What Causes It?

carpaltunnel1Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful, progressive condition that occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed. The nerve may become compressed because it has swollen, the tendons are inflamed, or both.

A person with carpal tunnel syndrome feels tingling, burning, or itching numbness in the palm of the hand and the fingers, especially the thumb and index finger.

Sensations to the palm of the hand, as well as the thumb and three other fingers (not the little finger) are controlled by the median nerve.

The median nerve also controls some of the small muscles that allow the thumb and fingers to move.

The carpal tunnel, also known as the carpal canal, is a passage of bones and ligaments at the base of the hand. The median nerve and tendons are also in the carpal tunnel.

The carpal tunnel can sometimes narrow as a result of irritated tendons or some other swelling; this puts pressure on the median nerve.

Pressure on the median nerve can lead to pain, numbness and weakness in the hand and wrist, which may make its way up into the arm.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome is the “most common and widely known of the entrapment neuropathies in which the body’s peripheral nerves are compressed or traumatized.”

According to Medilexicon’s medical dictionary:

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is the most common nerve entrapment syndrome, characterized by paresthesias, typically nocturnal, and sometimes sensory loss and wasting in the median nerve distribution in the hand; often bilateral and affects women more than men; due to chronic entrapment of the median nerve at the wrist within the carpal tunnel.

carpaltunnel2CTS (carpal tunnel syndrome) are one of the most common conditions affecting the nerves of the hand. It is estimated that almost 5% of women and 3% of men have CTS. American Family Physician estimates that from 3% to 6% of adults in the general population suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. Most cases of CTS develop in people who are between 45-64 years of age.

CTS is not a life-threatening condition, but it can negatively affect lifestyle if left untreated. In worst case scenarios, the median nerve can become severely damaged and result in total loss of movement within the affected hand.

What are the signs and symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, such as pain, while a sign is something others can detect, such as a skin rash.

Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms tend to develop gradually over time.

Most patients commonly feel the need to “shake out” their hands when they wake up.

The three main symptoms associated with CTS are:

  • Pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling

These symptoms occur in the thumb and the two fingers next to it, as well as half of the ring finger.

Sometimes the unpleasant sensations extend to the rest of the hand and even into the forearm.

As CTS gets worse, symptoms may persist during the day. The person may lose grip strength and find it harder to form a fist or grasp small objects. Opening a bottle of soda, doing up your buttons, or typing on a keyboard, tasks that used to be easy become a challenge.

If left untreated, the muscles at the base of the thumb may wither away. The ability to tell hot from cold with thumb and finger may be lost.

Symptoms tend to get worse or emerge after using the affected hand. The sensation of tingling, burning and pain may get worse if the arm or hand has been in the same position for a long time.

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