Pressure on the median nerve, the nerve that runs down the center of the arm and into the hand, can trigger carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that causes pain, numbness, tingling, and reduced function. People using repetitive hand movements, such as computer operators, hairstylists, and massage therapists, are at a greater risk for developing this disorder. Pregnant women are also highly susceptible. Wrist splints and exercises can ease symptoms of minor carpal tunnel, though advanced cases may require surgery.
The tingling sensation known as pins and needles often develops when an extremity is kept in an awkward position for an extended time, causing blood flow to become interrupted or a nerve to be compressed. People with carpal tunnel syndrome often experience a more intense and unpleasant version of this sensation. Usually, it only affects the thumb and first two fingers, but it can also spread to other areas of the hand and arm.
Even in the early stages, carpal tunnel syndrome can sometimes be painful. The pain is usually in the wrist, palm, and fingers, but in severe cases, it may travel to the shoulder. Pain patterns vary from person to person. Doctors are continuously researching to understand more about this condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may cause a loss of feeling in the fingers, sometimes increasing to complete numbness. This can impact an individual's ability to complete normal, day-to-day tasks. Surgical treatment may be necessary to restore sensation and function, especially when carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes. However, rest, exercise, and home treatment can ease symptoms and may correct minor cases.
People with carpal tunnel syndrome often feel as though their hands or fingers are swollen. When the doctor checks them, however, they find no evidence of swelling or inflammation during physical examination. In some cases, minor swelling actually occurs above the wrist, but most people report the feeling in the fingers where the numbness occurs.
One of the most common carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms is a sense of weakness in the wrists and hands. People find it particularly hard to grip small objects. In these cases, medical tests, such as a hand dynamometer, can reveal loss of strength. However, these tests are not routinely performed, and doctors usually rely on the subjective symptoms described by the patient. Slight deterioration in grip control is more common following surgical treatment for carpal tunnel.
One notable relief from pain is simply moving the hand into a different position. Symptoms are usually worse at night, presumably because the joints of the hands and wrist can become stiff as a result of less movement and because fluid accumulates in the arm and hand, placing pressure on the median nerve. In the most severe cases, symptoms become so intense that sleep is continuously disturbed throughout the night .
Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome notice changes in the color or texture of their hands. Skin may become dry and chapped, and fingertips can feel cold and stiff. The fingertips or whole hand may become redder, or whiter, than normal due to changes in blood flow.
Some people with carpal tunnel syndrome experience finger stiffness, but, as with the sensation of swelling, there is no objective medical evidence of what causes this feeling. On the other hand, if the stiffness is severe, it may be due to an arthritic condition associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
One of the strangest symptoms associated with carpal tunnel syndrome is a common response to a specific hand movement. People describe a sensation comparable to the twang of a released rubber band in their hand and fingers. Experts are unsure of what exactly causes this symptom, and it is most commonly experienced in individuals who have undergone carpal tunnel surgery.
Carpel tunnel syndrome worsens over time if symptoms are ignored and untreated. It can lead to permanent injury, nerve damage, and loss of function, which requires surgery. Naturally, early detection is best.
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