Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that affects a compressed nerve in the wrist. This causes pain, numbness and tingling that can be felt in the hand and forearm. Commonly, it is found in women between the age of 40 and 60, although men can suffer also.
The Carpal Tunnel – What is it?
Effectively, it is a channel within the wrist. The bones of the wrist form a semi-circle around the base and side of the channel. The roof of the channel consists of tissue that is called the transverse carpal ligament.
Flexing your fingers involves the use of tendons that pass through the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is also positioned around the median nerve and this provides feeling while controlling the muscles in both the hand and thumb. When pressure is placed in this nerve, it can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
There are several symptoms that are associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. This includes pain the wrist and the hand that can be felt in both the shoulder, upper arm and forearm. Some sufferers will experience numb hands, tingling and a weakness.
Where weakness occurs, this causes problems with the movement of the thumb and this can cause problems with grip. Over time, the muscles become weaker and this can lead to muscle wastage. It could also lead to permanent damage to the median nerve.
Often, some sufferers will experience carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. The symptoms are felt in the thumb, index finger, the middle finger and the ring finger. The symptoms may be difficult to spot but they could get worse and they can often disappear and reappear. Symptoms are commonly worse at night and can even lead to broken sleep.
What are the causes?
The main cause of the problem is compression on the median nerve located in the wrist. This area of the arm is limited for space and any form of swelling can lead to pressure on the median nerve. This can leadin to carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms. However, there are many reasons why people suffer from the problem and that makes it difficult to pin down a specific cause.
Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Your Rheumatologist will question you about your symptoms as well as your medical history but they will also carry out a number of tests.
The Phalen test will be carried out and you will be asked to flex your wrist. If you feel any kind of pain or numbness within a pain, it could indicate that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. Another test that can be carried out is the Tinel test, where a tap or a press is made on the median nerve to determine whether you experience tingling in the fingers.
However, if these tests do not conclusively diagnose the problem, then it is possible that you could be referred for additional tests.