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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • What is the Carpal Tunnel?

    The carpal tunnel in the wrist holds 9 tendons and the median nerve. When pressure builds up in the tunnel, the nerve gets squeezed and is unable to work properly. This may result in numbness, discomfort and pain in the fingers.

  • These are the causes and risk factors of carpal tunnel syndrome:

    • A previous wrist fracture may cause narrowing of the carpal tunnel.
    • Diabetes mellitus and some rare hormonal conditions can be a risk factor.
    • Family members with the condition can be a risk factor.
    • Fluid retention can cause swelling of tissues in the carpal tunnel.
    • Inflammatory (swelling) conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, can cause the lining of the joints and tendons in the carpal tunnel to swell.
    • Obese people are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.
    • Age can cause changes in the soft tissue or bony structures of the wrist, leading to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome.
    • Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome than men.
  • Symptoms usually include pain, numbness or tingling in your hand and fingers. The symptoms can occur while doing simple tasks like holding the telephone or reading the newspaper. You may also have a weak grip.

  • When the symptoms are still mild, treatment may include:

    • Medication (eg. vitamin B6 and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
    • Reducing wrist movement
    • Oral steroid medication or steroid injections to reduce the swelling of the tissues
    • Splints or braces to relieve the pain

    Surgery to divide the fibres (transverse carpal ligament) pressing down on the nerve may be helpful and it is often done under local anaesthesia. This can be done as a 'keyhole' surgery which only needs a small cut to be made. This will result in quicker recovery compared to traditional, open surgery.

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