The condition affects around 5% of the population, most commonly occurring around the age of 50 and is three times more common in women.
There are a number of occupations which contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome. Among others dressmakers, secretaries, musicians, hairdressers, as well as people who often work with computers. Repeated movements of the wrist and fingers are one of the causes responsible for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, the disease can also result from swollen structures in the carpal tunnel or from an injury.
Other causes include:
- lipomas, ganglions and other abnormal structures in the carpal tunnel.
- rheumatic diseases.
Carpal tunnel is a tunnel hosting anatomical structures such as the median nerve and flexor tendons (tendons that bend your fingers). Inflammations, injuries or overgrowth of the transverse carpal ligament lead to ischaemia and compression of the median nerve in the tunnel.
How do you diagnose a carpal tunnel syndrome?
Symptoms of the carpal tunnel syndrome usually start with a characteristic pain in the limb at night, followed by numbness of the thumb and fingers: index, middle and half of the ring finger. Patients may have problems with precise hand movements, cannot clench their hand into a fist, the hand feels weak, they may drop objects.
In order to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, a so-called EMG test, i.e. a nerve conduction test, must be performed to determine the degree of nerve damage and to qualify for surgery. If the results are inconclusive or the patient has comorbidities, it may be necessary to carry out additional tests such as wrist ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. However, this is very rare. Diagnosis of the disease is very important, because long-term nerve compression aggravates degenerative changes. Irreversible damage to the nerve may occur in long-term, untreated disorders.
How do you treat carpal tunnel syndrome?
In most patients, surgery is the only effective form of treatment. It involves making a small incision in the skin and subcutaneous tissue, visualising flexor retinaculum and releasing it in an open or endoscopic procedure. This causes the discomfort to stop.
The surgery is not only effective, but above all safe, and no stay in the clinic is required afterwards. The patient does not need to prepare for the procedure, which is performed under local anaesthesia. In the initial period after the surgery, for about 6-8 weeks, it is necessary to spare the operated arm and wear a sling. It should not be excessively loaded and it is not advisable to lift heavy objects.
Please bear in mind that an early diagnosis and surgery can reinstate full functionality of your limb. If you have noticed any alarming and unpleasant symptoms, consult your doctor as soon as possible.