Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition wherein a nerve in the wrist gets pinched causing pain, numbness and hand weakness. Individuals suffering from the condition find it hard to sleep at night due to the tingling sensation caused by the suppressed nerve. Majority of the people who are affected by this problem are those whose work put a lot of strain in their wrists.

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The treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome targets to alleviate the symptoms and restore the normal functioning of the hands and wrists. It also helps in improving the quality of life of the patients by letting them sleep better. A lot of factors can trigger the condition, so it is extremely important for the affected person to consult the doctor for appropriate diagnosis and effective treatment.

What are the causes?

The syndrome is caused by the compression of the median nerve that run along the carpal tunnel. The Carpal tunnel refers to the narrow passageway in the wrist which serves as the protective barrier for tendons and nerves. One of these nerves is known as the median nerve which controls the sensation and movement of the thumb and the adjacent three fingers. The compression of this nerve results in symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome. Compression of the narrow passageway could be due to:

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes and swelling associated to pregnancy may put pressure on the nerves. 

  • Wrist fracture

A fractured wrist could irritate and constrict the narrow passageway in the wrist. 

  • Repetitive hand and wrist movements

Doing the same hand and wrist movements can also result to Carpal tunnel disorder. 

  • Smoking

Smoking could limit blood flow to the median nerve. 

  • Certain health-related conditions

Examples of these ailments include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism.

In what way does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome affect the body?

This hand and wrist disease affects the body, disrupting the normal use of the hands and wrists. Sufferers often feel vague aching on their wrists extending to their forearm or hand upon the onset of the condition. The symptoms become more defined over time, and are characterized by:

  • Radiating pain

This is felt from the wrist to the arms and shoulder, or from the shoulder down to the fingers. 

  • Numbness

Numbness is often experienced on the affected fingers such as the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. It occurs more frequently as the condition advances. Depending on the individual, numbness might be felt upon awakening or when holding something. 

  • Hand weakness

Sufferers may drop the objects they are holding due to weak grasps.

If the disorder has been disrupting sleeping patterns and normal daily activities substantially, it is best to see the doctor. Although it is not associated to serious medical conditions, the disorder can cause muscle and nerve damage.

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How common is it?

The syndrome is relatively common affecting more women than men. It is also widespread among people suffering from certain medical conditions like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. The average age when the problem strikes is between 30 and 60 years old, occurring in 1 out of 20 people. There is a 10% chance for adults in the average age to develop the disorder.

What are the tests are done for diagnosis?

The doctor will conduct several tests to confirm the syndrome, and these are:

  • Physical exam

This is often done to evaluate the muscle strength and sensation in the hands and fingers. 

  • Examining the symptoms

The doctor will check for the pattern of the symptoms as well as the activities that trigger the symptoms to emerge. 

  • Electromyogram

This diagnostic test is done to measure the small electrical discharges from the muscles which help the doctor determine muscle damage. 

  • X-ray

This test may be requested to rule out possible wrist fracture or arthritis. 

  • Nerve studies

This test is similar to electromyogram which is done to see if the electrical impulses slow down in the narrow passageway.

What are the treatment options ?

Treatments for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome differ with every individual, depending on the root cause and severity of the condition. Treatment helps not only in alleviating the symptoms but in keeping the condition from aggravating which could lead to nerve damage. Treatment may involve:

  • Home care

This usually comes in the form of wrist splinting which helps in relieving nighttime symptoms. Wrist splinting works for pregnant women as well. 

  • Medication

Medications may also be used to help relieve the symptoms. The doctor may use corticosteroids to help ease the pain and reduce the swelling of the median nerve. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs might also be used to provide short term relief. 

  • Surgery is considered when the accompanying symptoms are really bad, making the patient incapacitated for weeks or months.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be a debilitating disease, so treatment must never be delayed. Observing proper posture, taking breaks and avoiding making repetitive movements are the finest ways to prevent it from happening.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pictures

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