What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve, which is responsible for movement of the thumb and sensation in part of the palm, is compressed as it passes through the wrist. It usually presents as numbness and tingling in the hand, especially at night, but can progress to include pain and clumsiness in the affected hand.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by mechanical pressure on the median nerve as it passes through the wrist. While most cases do not have a clear trigger, some people do have predisposing factors, such as trauma to the wrist, diabetes, thyroid disease, pregnancy, or an inflammatory disease such as Lupus. Repetitive physical activity can also exacerbate the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Is carpal tunnel syndrome dangerous?
While carpal tunnel syndrome is more irritating than debilitating in its early stages, if it progresses unchecked it can lead to permanent loss of strength and dexterity in the affected hands. For this reason, early diagnosis and treatment is very important.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed by (1) confirming nerve compression in the wrist, and (2) ruling out other causes for the symptoms, such as tendonitis or a pinched nerve in the neck. This is done with a combination of physical examination and electrical testing in the office. Sometimes, depending on these findings, imaging of the neck or ultrasound of the nerve can be helpful.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome treated?
While there are medications that can relieve some of the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, definitive treatment revolves around reducing the pressure on the affected nerve. This is typically performed by resting the hands and using a splint to hold the wrist in a neutral position. If this is ineffective, other interventions including local steroid injections or surgery to decompress the tunnel can also be used, and are usually very effective.
Midtown Neurology P.C.
Julian Bragg MD/PhD completed his medical internship and neurology residency at Emory, and then continued at Emory for a fellowship in neuromuscular disease. He practices general neurology at Midtown Neurology, PC with attention to peripheral disorders such as peripheral neuropathy and muscle diseases.