Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal tunnel syndrome facts

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by irritation of the median nerve at the wrist.
  • Any condition that exerts pressure on the median nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include numbness and tingling of the hand.
  • Diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome is suspected based on symptoms, supported by physical examination signs, and confirmed by nerve conduction testing.
  • Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of symptoms and the underlying cause.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pictures Slideshow: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpus is a word derived from the Greek word karpos, which means "wrist." The wrist is surrounded by a band of fibrous tissue that normally functions as a support for the joint. The tight space between this fibrous band and the wrist bone is called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel to receive sensations from the thumb, index, and middle fingers of the hand. Any condition that causes swelling or a change in position of the tissue within the carpal tunnel can squeeze and irritate the median nerve. Irritation of the median nerve in this manner causes tingling and numbness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers -- a condition known as "carpal tunnel syndrome."

What conditions and diseases cause carpal tunnel syndrome?

For most patients, the cause of their carpal tunnel syndrome is unknown. Any condition that exerts pressure on the median nerve at the wrist can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Common conditions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome include obesity, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, arthritis, diabetes, and trauma. Tendon inflammation resulting from repetitive work, such as uninterrupted typing, can also cause carpal tunnel symptoms. Carpal tunnel syndrome from repetitive maneuvers has been referred to as one of the repetitive stress injuries, although this relationship remains controversial in the evidence based literature. Some rare diseases can cause deposition of abnormal substances in and around the carpal tunnel, leading to nerve irritation. These diseases include amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, multiple myeloma, and leukemia.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015

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Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis

The other day I was flying across the country and exited the in-flight lavatory to find my flight attendant standing in the back kitchen. She was holding an ice pack over her wrist. She spontaneously blurted out in explanation, "My carpal tunnel is acting up." She then showed me where she was having pain and tenderness along the tendon of the thumb side of her wrist.