Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Overview

Carpal tunnel is a passage for the median nerve within the wrist on the side of the thumb, index finger and middle finger. Pain, numbness or tingling within this region is known as the carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition is either self limited and relieved with rest, or requires treatment.

Causes

Symptoms of this condition arise due to compression of the median nerve within this tunnel. It can be due to a simple wrist fracture, or inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Some risk factors behind carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Female gender
  • Anatomically smaller tunnel
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Kidney failure
  • Repetitive wrist movements

Symptoms

Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Numbness, tingling or pain in the thumb, middle or index finger
  • Weakness in hand, especially wrist
  • Pain and discomfort in the wrist or palm

Diagnosis

Diagnosis can usually be made on history and clinical examination, especially of the wrist and associated movements. X-rays, Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies can also be used.

Treatment

If rest and use of ice/heat packs don’t help, following therapies can be used:

  • Wrist splinting
  • NSAID
  • Corticosteroids
  • Surgical decompression of the nerve
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