Carpal tunnel syndrome is a commonly occurring hand condition that sometimes requires surgery. Common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include pain and weakness in the wrist and hand. It develops when the tissues surrounding the hand’s median nerve swell and press on it. Frequent and repetitive small movements and grasping are believed to cause carpal tunnel.
The disease may, however, occur due to underlying conditions like arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and injury to the hand. If you have persistent or recurrent pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in one or both hands and wrists, consider seeing a hand specialist. In the early stages, the condition may be reversible. However, as it progresses, it damages the median nerve, and the doctor can do nothing except help you manage the symptoms.
What are the Possible Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms?
It’s impossible to point out one specific thing as the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, the condition is common in people whose jobs involve repetitive hand and wrist movement and grasping.
Some studies suggest that the condition can be associated with physical and medical conditions like hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, pregnancy and sarcoidosis. Women have a higher chance of developing carpal tunnel than men. Additionally, physically active, overweight and older people are at increased risk.
How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Develop?
It is not completely clear how the process leading to carpal tunnel syndrome occurs or how the nerve conduction through the wrist changes. Generally, the condition develops when the tissue surrounding the median nerve swells and then presses on the nerve. As the disease progresses, the nerve insulation wears away, and permanent nerve damage can occur.
The protective tendon lining swells within the carpal tunnel in the initial stages. A build-up of fluid can cause swelling under the lining. When the lining swells, the band of fibrous tissue, known as the transverse ligament, thickens and broadens. The thickened ligament and swollen tendons then press on the median nerve reducing blood and oxygen supply to the median nerve.
The same also slows nerve signal transmissions through the carpal tunnel. In some patients, carpal tunnel syndrome results from median nerve enlargement rather than compression of the surrounding tissue. Either way, the result is pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the hand, wrist, and fingers. Usually, with carpal tunnel, only the little finger is unaffected.
What are the Common Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Symptoms to Look Out For?
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms progress gradually over weeks, months or years. They include:
1. Numbness and Tingling
The symptoms start gradually with frequent tingling and numbness in the fingers, especially the index, thumb and middle fingers. The symptoms first appear in one or both hands and worsen at night. The dominant hand is usually the most affected and has the most severe symptoms.
Due to the numbness and tingling, you may wake up needing to “shake out” the hand or wrist. As the condition worsens, you may feel tingling even during the day, especially when performing certain activities like driving, reading a newspaper, scrolling through your phone or reading a book.
2. Hand and Wrist Pain
The pain usually starts gradually, and most people ignore it as an overuse injury. However, as the condition progresses, the pain can worsen enough to interfere with sleep.
3. Feeling of Swelling
Some carpal tunnel patients report that their fingers feel swollen and useless, even if there is very little or no visible swelling.
4. Hand Weakness
This makes it difficult to grasp small objects and perform certain manual tasks.
5. Complete Loss of Sensation
In the early stages, there are treatment options that can help correct carpal tunnel syndrome or relieve the symptoms. In untreated or chronic cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb usually waste away. When that happens, one loses the ability to feel heat or cold. Such a person can easily burn their fingertips without realising it.
6. Hand or Wrist Weakness
Over time, you may experience a sense of weakness, resulting in dropping things.
Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms occur when the affected hand or wrist is being used and at night when one is at rest. Even in cases where work is the suspected cause, symptoms occur outside of work.
Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment in the early stages through surgery, hand therapy and lifestyle changes can lead to long-term improvement. The same can also help alleviate the symptoms before permanent nerve damage occurs and you lose hand function.
If you have recurrent hand pain, numbness, tingling and weakness that you think might be carpal tunnel syndrome, book a consultation today with a hand specialist at the Harley Clinic.
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