Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand and arm. This syndrome gets worse over time, so early diagnosis and treatments are important since, in the early stages, carpal tunnel can still be relieved through simple measures such as wearing a wrist splint or doing wrist exercises.
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that is about an inch wide. It protects the flexor tendons, that bend the fingers and thumb; and the median nerve, which controls most of the sensation and movement in the hands and fingers.
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the tunnel becomes narrowed or when tissues surrounding the flexor tendons swell, which puts pressure on the median nerve. These tissues are called the synovium. Normally, the synovium lubricates the tendons, making it easier to move your fingers.
When the synovium swells, it takes up space in the carpal tunnel and, over time, crowds the nerve. This abnormal pressure on the nerve can result in pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the hand.
The most common cause of carpal tunnel, which is an inflammation, is an underlying medical condition that causes swelling in the wrist, and sometimes obstructed blood flow. Some of the most frequent conditions linked with carpal tunnel syndrome are:
Fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
High blood pressure
Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis
Fractures or trauma to the wrist
Carpal tunnel syndrome can be made worse if the wrist is overextended repeatedly. Repeated motion of your wrist contributes to swelling and compression of the median nerve. This may be the result of:
Positioning of your wrists while using your keyboard or mouse
Prolonged exposure to vibrations from using hand tools or power tools
Any repeated movement that overextends your wrist, such as playing the piano or typing
Nonsurgical options include:
Avoiding positions that overextend your wrist
Wrist splints that hold your hand in a neutral position, especially at night
Mild pain medication and medications to reduce inflammation
Treatment of any underlying conditions you may have, such as diabetes or arthritis
Steroid injections into your carpal tunnel area to reduce inflammation
Surgery may be necessary if there is severe damage to the median nerve. Surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome involves cutting the band of tissue in the wrist that crosses the median nerve so as to lessen the pressure on your nerve. Factors that determine success or failure are age of the patient, duration of symptoms, and diabetes mellitus. The outcome is usually good.
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