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Definition

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that occurs in the hand or wrist due to the pressure on the median nerve which leads to numbness and tingling of the hand. Several factors that lead to carpal tunnel syndromeinclude patterns of using the hand, wrist anatomy and underlying health problems.

Carpal tunnel is a narrow passage on the side of the palm. It protects the nerves and tendons of the hand and fingers. Compression of this carpal tunnel leads to numbness, tingling and weakness.

Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused due to compression of the median nerve. The median nerveleads to the sensation of fingers and palm side of the thumb except little finger. The median nerve also affects the movement of muscles in the hand.

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness or tingling in thumb and fingers as well as weakness and discomfort in wrist.

Numbness or tingling

Numbness and tingling can be experienced in the thumb and fingers. This sensation is often felt while holding a phone, newspaper, steering wheel and waking up from sleep. This sensation may further extend from the wrist to the arm.

Weakness

Weakness in the hand may lead to reduced ability of grasping objects. The numbness in the hand of the thumb's pinching muscles cause weakness in the hand. These muscles are controlled by the median nerve.

Diagnosis of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The doctor may conduct tests to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome that include physical examination, x-ray, electromyogram and the study of nerve conduction.

Physical examination

The doctor will conduct a physical examination by testing the sensation felt in fingers, pressing and tapping on the nerve and strength of muscles in hand.

X-ray

The doctor may also recommend for an x-ray for the affected area of the wrist to determine the other causes of pain.

Electromyogram

The doctor may conduct electromyogram test to evaluate the electrical activity of the muscles. It helps in determining the damage done to muscles.

Study of nerve conduction

The doctor may conduct a nerve conduction study by passing a small shock to the median nerve. In some cases, the doctor may also recommend to seek help from a neurologist or neurosurgeon.

Treatment of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be treated in both non-surgical as well as surgical ways.

Non- surgical treatment

The non-surgical treatments that may help in improving the condition of carpal tunnel syndrome are wrist splinting, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids.

Wrist splinting: A splint holds the wrist still at night to prevent tingling and numbness while sleeping.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): NSAIDs that help in relieving the pain for short period.

Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids helps in reducing the swelling and inflammation which also relieves the pressure on median nerve.

Surgical treatment

In severe cases, the surgical treatment may also be performed which include endoscopic surgery and open surgery.

Endoscopic surgery: It is a surgery conducted using the endoscope attached to see the carpal tunnel and cut the ligaments by small incisions , followed by open surgery.

Open surgery: In open surgery, large incisions are made on carpal tunnel to free the nerve.

 

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