Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome usually start slowly with a tingling, itching and burning sensation in the palm of the hand and fingers, particularly the thumb, index finger and middle finger. It is caused when the median nerve which runs down the forearm into the palm of the hand is pressed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensation to the palm side of the thumb and fingers but not the little finger. It also controls some muscles in the hand which are responsible for movement to the fingers and thumb. The carpal tunnel is a collection of ligaments and bones that form a ‘tunnel’ at the base of the hand. This ‘tunnel’ is where the median nerve and tendons are situated.
Carpal tunnel syndrome can occur when there is trauma or injury to the wrist, a congenital defect of a smaller than ‘normal’ carpal tunnel, rheumatoid arthritis, work stress or development of a tumour or cyst in the canal. These are just a few of the reasons why this syndrome develops. Women are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome and it is usually the dominant hand that becomes affected first.
Permanent damage to the median nerve can happen if an early diagnosis and treatment does not happen. Tests including a possible electrodiagnostic test are conducted to ascertain whether the patient has carpal tunnel syndrome. Treatment usually involves resting the hand and wrist that is affected for a period of at least two weeks. Various non-surgical treatments may be administered but usually after a period of 6 months should the condition not improve, surgery may be the only alternative. The procedure is usually done under local anaesthesia or sedation.