The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway through which the median nerve and tendons pass from the forearm to the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve, which is responsible for sensation and some movement in the thumb and closest three fingers, becomes constricted. Several factors can cause the carpal tunnel to narrow, placing pressure on the median nerve and potentially causing some of the characteristic symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome – pain, tingling, weakness and numbness of the hands and fingers (except for the pinky).
The cause of carpal tunnel syndrome in an individual cannot always be determined. The condition is far more prominent in women, which could be due to their generally smaller carpal tunnels. Some people simply inherit the condition, while in other cases carpal tunnel syndrome can be the result of other problems such as an injury, rheumatoid arthritis or hypothyroidism.
Often the treatment regimen advised by doctors is aimed at management of the symptoms, though surgery to release some of the pressure on the carpal tunnel is also an option. Rest and immobilization of the affected wrist(s) are usually recommended to alleviate the symptoms. Often people with the condition get relief by wearing a wrist brace at night or during certain activities to keep the wrist in a neutral position. In some situations, people with the condition may benefit from over the counter medications such as anti-inflammatories or diuretics as advised by a doctor. If another disease or condition is determined to be the root of the carpal tunnel syndrome, the underlying problem will likely be treated. For symptoms that are long lasting and lifestyle prohibitive, surgery may be recommended to permanently relieve the pressure on the median nerve. The surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome is very common and relatively non-invasive.
Experiencing some of the described symptoms does not necessarily indicate that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Something other than carpal tunnel syndrome could be causing the symptoms, or a treatable underlying problem could be contributing to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. Proper diagnosis is critical, and early diagnosis is ideal. A doctor can perform tests to determine whether a patient needs to be treated for carpal tunnel syndrome. Consulting with a medical professional is advisable for anyone who is experiencing any of these symptoms.
Note: This information is not intended to supplement or replace advice from a medical professional, or to diagnose or treat any condition.
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