Saturday, March 10, 2007

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome-Topic Overview

A medical overview of CTS ...

"Carpal tunnel syndrome is a specific group of symptoms that can include tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers, thumb, hand, and occasionally in the arm. These symptoms occur when there is pressure on the median nerve within the wrist.

The carpal tunnel is a small space or "tunnel" in the wrist formed by the wrist bones (carpal bones) and a ligament (transverse carpal ligament). The median nerve and several tendons pass through the carpal tunnel from the forearm to the hand. The tendons are surrounded by tubes of tissue (tendon sheaths). The median nerve controls some movements of the thumb, and this nerve supplies feeling to most of the thumb and to the index finger, middle finger, and part of the ring finger.

What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by conditions and activities that put pressure on the median nerve and decrease its blood supply, leading to tingling, numbness, pain, and/or weakness. Any of the following conditions or activities, or a combination of them, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome:

Conditions such as hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis can increase the amount of tissue in the carpal tunnel. The swelling that is common in pregnancy can also crowd structures in the tunnel.
Wrist injuries, bone spurs, or swelling of the tendon sheath can decrease the space available in the carpal tunnel. A common cause of tendon sheath swelling is forceful or repetitive movement of the fingers and hand, especially if the wrist is in an awkward position.
Conditions such as diabetes, which increases nerve sensitivity, can make the median nerve more sensitive to pressure.
Smoking and obesity can each increase the risk of developing symptoms.
When compared with other illnesses and injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common causes of absence from work.1

What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain of the fingers or, less commonly, the palm. Symptoms most often occur in the parts of the hand supplied by the median nerve: the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. If your little finger is not affected, this may be a sign that the condition is carpal tunnel syndrome, because the little finger is usually controlled by a different nerve than the thumb and other fingers. You may first notice symptoms at night, and you may be able to get relief by shaking your hand."    (Continued via WebMD)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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