What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
This syndrome is a set of symptoms thought to be caused by squashing (compression) of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel. In terms of age, carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in:
- People in their late 50s, particularly women.
- People in their late 70s, when men and women are equally affected.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in people who are obese and it often runs in families. It is more common in women who are pregnant.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
- Pins and needles. This is tingling or burning in part or all of the shaded area (see Causes section). This is typically the first symptom to develop. The index and middle fingers are usually first to be affected.
- Pain in the same fingers may then develop. The pain may travel up the forearm and even to the shoulder.
- Numbness of the same finger(s), or in part of the palm, may develop if the condition becomes worse.
- Dryness of the skin may develop in the same fingers.
- Weakness of some muscles in the fingers and/or thumb occurs in severe cases. This may cause poor grip and eventually lead to muscle wasting at the base of the thumb.
Symptoms can vary from person to person from mild to severe. One or both hands may be affected. Symptoms tend to come and go at first, often after you use the hand. Typically, symptoms are worse at night and may wake you up.
The symptoms may be eased for a while by raising the hand up or hanging it down. Flicking the wrist may also give relief. Symptoms persist all the time if the condition becomes severe.
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- Vasiliadis HS, Georgoulas P, Shrier I, et al; Endoscopic release for carpal tunnel syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014 Jan 31 1:CD008265. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008265.pub2.
- Ghasemi-Rad M, Nosair E, Vegh A, et al; A handy review of carpal tunnel syndrome: From anatomy to diagnosis and treatment. World J Radiol. 2014 Jun 28 6(6):284-300. doi: 10.4329/wjr.v6.i6.284.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome; NICE CKS, September 2016 (UK access only)
- Mason W, Ryan D, Khan A, et al; Injection versus Decompression for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-Pilot trial (INDICATE-P)-protocol for a randomised feasibility study. Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2017 Apr 24 3:20. doi: 10.1186/s40814-017-0134-y. eCollection 2017.
- Lyon C, Syfert J, Nashelsky J; Clinical Inquiry: Do corticosteroid injections improve carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms? J Fam Pract. 2016 Feb 65(2):125-8.
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