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Carpal Tunnel

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What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve is compressed as it passes through an opening from the wrist to the hand called the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is formed by the carpal bones on the bottom of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament across the top of the wrist. Since the median nerve provides sensory and motor functions to the thumb and three middle fingers, many symptoms may result.

Facts about carpal tunnel syndrome:

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), carpal tunnel release is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the US. Women develop carpal tunnel syndrome three times more frequently than men. It usually occurs only in adults.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?

Most cases of carpal tunnel syndrome have no specific cause, although any/all of the following may serve as a contributing factor:

  • 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 (i.e., arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • hormonal or metabolic changes (i.e., menopause, pregnancy, thyroid imbalance)
  • changes in blood-sugar levels (may be seen with type 2 diabetes)
  • other conditions or injuries of the wrist (i.e., strain, sprain, dislocation, break, or swelling and inflammation)

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?

The following are the most common symptoms for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.

Symptoms may include:

  • difficulty making a fist
  • difficulty gripping objects with the hand(s)
  • pain and/or numbness in the hand(s)
  • "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 and/or numbness that is worse at night, interrupting sleep

The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?