Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is when the median nerve is squeezed
(compressed) as it passes through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is an opening
in your wrist that is formed by the carpal bones on the bottom of the wrist and the
transverse carpal ligament across the top of the wrist. The median nerve provides
sensory and motor functions to the thumb and 3 middle fingers. If it gets compressed
or irritated, you may have symptoms.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome have no specific cause. But
any or all of the following may be part of the cause:
- Frequent, repetitive, small movements with the hands such as
with typing or using a keyboard
- Frequent, repetitive, grasping movements with the hands such
as with sports and certain physical activities
- Joint or bone disease. For example, arthritis,
osteoarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis.
- Hormonal or metabolic changes. For example, menopause,
pregnancy, or thyroid imbalance.
- Changes in blood sugar levels. For example, with type 2
- Other conditions or injuries of the wrist. For example,
strain, sprain, dislocation, break, or swelling and inflammation.
- Family history of carpal tunnel syndrome
Who is at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome?
Women get carpal tunnel syndrome 3 times more often than men. It
usually often occurs only in adults.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
These are the most common symptoms:
- Weakness when gripping objects with one or both hands
- Pain or numbness in one or both hands
- “Pins and needles” feeling in the fingers
- Swollen feeling in the fingers
- Burning or tingling in the fingers, especially the thumb and
the index and middle fingers
- Pain or numbness that is worse at night, interrupting
The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may seem like other health
conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
Your provider will check your health history and give you a
physical exam. He or she may advise electrodiagnostic tests on your nerves. These
tests are the best way to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. Electrodiagnostic tests
stimulate the muscles and nerves in your hand to see how well they work.