FAQ’s on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition where the carpal tunnel of the body, which houses the median nerve, affects the nerve housed inside the tunnel – the median nerve. A patients’ carpal tunnel is composed of bone and ligament and can become inflamed to the point of compressing or damaging the median nerve which will result in complications felt in the hand of a patient. Median nerve compression as a due to CTS can produce numbness and weakness in the hand, directly infringing on the hands functional ability.
Patients who are experiencing a sudden numbing or tingling feeling in the palm, or a feeling of itchiness located between the wrist and palm, or pain and tenderness at the base of the dumb during movement, may be experiencing some degree of CTS.
What are the causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
CTS arises when the carpal muscles are damaged or strained, or when the carpal tunnel has a constant source of pressure on it. For many patients, CTS is a cumulative effect of many different contributing factors meeting to affect the wrist and hand. One of the largest causes is when a patient continually performs a repetitive activity the strains the muscles. Some patients may be more susceptible to the formation of CTS due to congenital narrowing present in the carpal tunnel.
CTS can also result from direct injury to the wrist that damages the carpal tunnel in a manner that affects the median nerve. The median nerve can also become affected by other conditions in the body that result in inflammation, such as infection or as a result of arthritic swelling.
What are the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The symptoms of CTS occur in a gradual manner, with the early indicators of the condition largely ignored by patients as simply being minor pains and annoyances instead of the early stages of CTS. It isn’t until the later stages of the condition, when damage has occurred and the effects become debilitating, that patients begin to seek treatment.
The most common effects felt by patients include a numbness of the palm that spreads to their fingers, often beginning in the middle and index finger. Patients also report feeling an itchiness occurring between the palm and wrist. Constant tenderness at the base of the thumb is also indicative of muscular decay. Other symptoms include swelling or tenderness of the wrist, and a gradual loss in the dexterity of the hand. Many patients will feel the effects of CTS in their dominant hand first, as it typically sees more usage which can accelerate the effects of CTS.
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome diagnosed?
As the effects of CTS are gradual, early diagnosis is paramount in avoiding long-term damage from occurring. The first step in diagnosis is for the physician to rule out other conditions that may be causing similar effects to occur. Secondly, the wrist and the hand will be thoroughly evaluated for warmth, swelling, tenderness, and discoloration. If there is a functional loss of ability in the hand, the physician will measure the extent through the use of strength and dexterity tests.
There are a number of specially designed tests which provoke similar symptoms to be felt if the patient were to have CTS. If these tests are close to what the patient is experiencing, it is very likely that CTS is present to a degree.
What are the treatment options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The treatments available will vary based on the extent of damage and progression of the effects. The first step for many patients is a combination of pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication followed by physical therapy to strength the wrist and hand. In cases where patients are in the later stages of CTS, surgical correction is available.