What is carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is numbness, tingling, weakness, and other problems in your hand because of pressure on the median nerve in your wrist.
The median nerve and several tendons run from your forearm to your hand through a small space in your wrist called the carpal tunnel. The median nerve controls movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers (not your little finger).
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Pressure on the median nerve causes carpal tunnel syndrome. This pressure can come from swelling or anything that makes the carpal tunnel smaller. Many things can cause this swelling, including:
- Illnesses such as hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.
- Making the same hand movements over and over, especially if the wrist is bent down (your hands lower than your wrists), or making the same wrist movements over and over.
What are the symptoms?
Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause tingling, numbness, weakness, or pain in the fingers or hand. Some people may have pain in their arm between their hand and their elbow.
Symptoms most often occur in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. If you have problems with your other fingers but your little finger is fine, this may be a sign that you have carpal tunnel syndrome. A different nerve gives feeling to the little finger.
You may first notice symptoms at night. You may be able to get relief by shaking your hand.
How is carpal tunnel syndrome diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask if you have any health problems such as arthritis, hypothyroidism, or diabetes or if you are pregnant. He or she will ask if you recently hurt your wrist, arm, or neck. Your doctor will want to know about your daily routine and any recent activities that could have hurt your wrist.
During the exam, your doctor will check the feeling, strength, and appearance of your neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands. Your doctor may suggest tests, such as blood tests or nerve tests.