Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when tendons or ligaments in the wrist
become enlarged, often from inflammation, after being aggravated.
The narrowed tunnel of bones and ligaments in the wrist pinches the
nerves that reach the fingers and the muscles at the base of the
thumb. The first symptoms usually appear at night.
from a burning, tingling numbness in the fingers, especially the
thumb and the index and middle fingers, to difficulty gripping or
making a fist, to dropping things.
Some cases of carpal tunnel
syndrome are due to work-related cumulative trauma of the wrist.
Diseases or conditions that predispose to the development of carpal
tunnel syndrome include pregnancy, diabetes, and obesity.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is treated by immobilizing the wrist in a
splint to minimize or prevent pressure on the nerves. If that fails,
patients are sometimes given anti-inflammatory drugs or injections
of cortisone in the wrist to reduce the swelling.
There is also a
surgical procedure in which doctors can open the wrist and cut the
ligament at the bottom of the wrist to relieve the pressure.
However, only a small percentage of patients require surgery.
Approximately 1 percent of individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome
develop permanent injury. The majority recover completely and can
avoid reinjury by changing the way they do repetitive movements, the
frequency with which they do the movements, and the amount of time
they rest between periods when they perform the movements.
Much of the on-going research on carpal tunnel syndrome is aimed at
prevention and rehabilitation. The National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) funds research on
carpal tunnel syndrome.
National Institute of Arthritis
and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
Bldg. 31, Rm. 4C05
Bethesda, MD 20892-2350
Tel: 301-496-8188 877-22-NIAMS (226-4267)