Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that involves the compression of the median nerve within the hand, as it passes through the space in the wrist. The median nerve can be found on the palm side of the hand, and the space through which it has to pass is called the carpal tunnel. It's this nerve that provides sensation throughout your index finger, thumb, part of the ring finger, and your longest, middle finger. Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur in either hand, and it's caused by swelling within the wrist that leads to compression. Often, that compression causes numbness, tingling, weakness, and other issues on the side of your hand.
The first thing to understand when examining what is carpal tunnel syndrome are the possible causes. The pain that happens during carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by excessive pressure on the median nerve and on the wrist. Inflammation may lead to swelling, and the most common cause of the swelling is inflammation and obstructed blood flow. Some of the conditions commonly linked with carpal tunnel syndrome might include:
– Fractures in the wrist
– Autoimmune disorders
– Fluid retention
– Thyroid dysfunction
Signs and Symptoms:
The next thing to understand when looking at what is carpal tunnel syndrome are the signs and symptoms. The signs and symptoms are usually located along the nerve path because of the compression on the median nerve. If you are affected by this condition, then you might find that your hand feels as though it has fallen asleep, and you may even frequently end up dropping objects. Other symptoms might include tingling, numbness, or pain in the hand which moves along the first three fingers of the hand and the thumb. Other symptoms include burning and pain along the arm, pain in the wrist that interferes with regular sleeping patterns, and weakness throughout the muscles in the hand.
Finally, when trying to understand what is carpal tunnel syndrome, it is vital to know the various treatments. Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome will depend on the severity of the pain and various other symptoms, such as weakness. In 2008, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons found a range of approved treatments for carpal tunnel. Usually, the best bet is to try and manage the condition without having to resort to surgery.
Some non-surgical treatment options include avoiding any positions or activities that overextend or harm the wrist in some way, or using carefully approved wrist splints that hold the hand within a neutral position – particularly during the night. Mild medication for pain might be used, as well as pain killers to reduce inflammation, and doctors will also look into treatments for underlying conditions that you might have like arthritis or diabetes.
In rare and often very severe circumstances that will include some damage to the median nerve, surgery might be required. Surgery that is used for carpal tunnel syndrome will involve cutting through the band of tissue within the wrist that crosses through the median nerve so that the amount of pressure on that nerve is decreased. However, factors that might determine the success of the surgery will include co-existing conditions and symptoms, weakness, and the age of the patient.