If you’ve suddenly found yourself with a numb or tingling hand, you may be suffering from a condition known as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This surprisingly common but rarely spoken about condition is caused by internal pressure on a nerve in the wrist. In this post, we’ll be telling you everything you need to know about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and its symptoms, so you can spot the signs and know when you need to seek help.
What causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, a major nerve which runs the length of the arm, through the wrist, and to the base of the hand. When it reaches the wrist, it must go through the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passage surrounded by ligaments and bone and leads to the bottom of the palm.
Internal pressure on the nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel can cause a feeling of numbness or pins and needles, usually affecting the thumb, index, middle, and sometimes ring fingers. It can be brought on by all sorts of things, but the most common causes are repetitive work with the hands, a thyroid hormone imbalance, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the wrist, or fractures and breaks. It can also begin during pregnancy but usually clears up once the baby has been delivered.
What are the main symptoms?
Symptoms may vary from person to person, but the two main signs you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome will be either numbness or pins and needles in your hand or arm, mainly affecting the fingers. Other symptoms may include:
- A burning sensation in the hand and digits
- Pain in your hand at night
- Pain when using your hand
- Weakness in the hand or wrist
In most instances, the doctor examining you will take a patient history of symptoms and examine the wrist in order to diagnose the condition. In some cases, they may order an X-ray just to rule out any other potential causes.
Who is most at risk?
While anyone can develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, some groups are more at risk than others. Women are more likely to suffer from the condition than men because their carpal tunnels are smaller and more susceptible to compression. Those working on repetitive tasks are also more likely to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, so bakers, hair stylists, and those that spend hours on computers run a higher risk because of the nature of the tasks they carry out.
You’re also more at risk than the general population if you’ve got a nerve-damaging condition such as diabetes, or an inflammatory disorder like rheumatoid arthritis. Obesity and hyperthyroidism also put a person in the increased risk category, as do pregnancy and a hereditary nerve condition known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.
How is it treated?
The good news is, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is easily treatable. While it may clear up on its own, you should see a doctor if the symptoms have persisted for some time or are making you particularly uncomfortable. Taking a break from repetitive tasks or gentle flexing of the hand can reduce the symptoms, but if they carry on, it’s time to see a doctor.
Your doctor is most likely to prescribe painkillers such as Ibuprofen, or even Cortisol, which numbs the pain but also decreases inflammation and reduces pressure on the median nerve. Night wrist splints may also be used, as well as steroid injections into the canal.
If symptoms persist despite these interventions, then your doctor might order an electromyography (EMG) test or nerve conduction studies. These check how well the electrical nerve impulses are travelling through the carpal tunnel, and give an indication of the severity of your condition.
In the most severe cases, you may need surgery on your wrist. While the word ‘surgery’ may sound scary, this is a simple, minimally invasive procedure that alleviates pressure on the nerve and leaves almost no visible scarring.
Time to get help?
If you recognise the signs and you think you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it might be time to seek medical advice. Dubai London Hospital can match you with the best doctor in Dubai to handle your case, as we have specialists in this area who can help in your recovery.
To book an appointment, simply get in touch with our expert team today, and we can see you get the treatment you deserve to set you on the road to better health.