What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
A peripheral nerve is a nerve that resides outside the brain and the spinal cord and courses all through the body. One such important nerve is the Median Nerve.The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in the wrist surrounded by small bones and a thick tough band of tissue, through which the median nerve and nine tendons pass. This nerve controls the movement and sensation of the thumb, index finger and middle finger and half of the ring finger.
This syndrome occurs when the contents of the tunnel swell, or the tough tissue band forming the roof of the tunnel thickens to compress the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a relatively common condition that causes pain, numbness (partial or complete loss of sensation) and a tingling sensation (typically pins and needles like sensation) in the hand and fingers. Usually, these sensations develop gradually and start getting worse at night. They tend to affect the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. In severe cases, patients may even have weakness in the thumb.
It isn't known why the median nerve becomes compressed in most cases, although certain things are thought to increase the risk of CTS developing, such as
• Strenuous, repetitive work with the hand especially in gardeners, assembly line workers and even home makers who knit.
• Carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with several diseases and situations. They are arthritis, diabetes, gout, amyloidosis (infiltration of the liver, kidneys, spleen with a starch-like substance), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), tumors of tendon sheaths, wrist fractures and dislocations, wrist cysts, pregnancy – up to about 50% of pregnant women develop CTS, use of oral contraceptives, menopause etc.
The treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome includes rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, and a splint. Even if a patient wears a splint that has been prescribed, he or she should avoid the activities that caused or aggravate the injury. In some cases CTS will disappear without treatment, or simple self-care measures will reduce the symptoms.
CTS in pregnant women often gets better within three months of the baby being born. However, in some women, symptoms can continue for more than a year and require treatment.
In more severe cases of CTS, surgery is usually required to reduce the pressure on the median nerve. Sometimes, it can take awhile for the symptoms to improve, but generally, the patient is relieved of the symptoms instantly. Depending on which hand was operated on and what your job involves, you will usually be able to return to work within a few weeks of surgery.
*Data Courtesy: Dr Harleen Lutther, Consultant in Brain spine and peripheral nerve surgery, SevenHills Hospital
*Images courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images