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What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve condition characterized by numbness, tingling or weakness in the hand. This condition occurs when the median nerve pressure that runs through the arm passes through the carpal tunnel and ends in hand. It is worthy to note that the carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of the hand that is surrounded by bones and ligaments.

Most often, the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome start gradually with burning, tingling or itching sensations in the palm and fingers. Subsequently, the tingling sensation moves up into the arm and weakness in the hand that results in difficulties holding things as well as a shock-like feeling when you move your fingers. As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, patients are likely to experience pain and muscle cramping in their arms and fingers.

There is no exact or single cause of carpal tunnel syndrome, but there are indications that it could be as a result of conditions such as pregnancy, obesity, rheumatoid and hypothyroidism. Moreover, repetitive motions such as typing and other wrist movements can cause the median nerve to compress, thereby resulting in the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Anyone can have carpal tunnel syndrome but women are three times more likely than men to develop the condition since they naturally have smaller carpal tunnels.  Other risk factors of carpal tunnel syndrome include having a family history , being in professions such as cashier, baker, and hairdresser  where you repeat the same arm, hand and wrist motions over and over.

People with certain health conditions including nerve-damaging conditions, inflammatory conditions, kidney failure, thyroid disorder, menopause and obesity are also at a greater risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be diagnosed in several ways including physical examinations, x-rays, electromyography, and a nerve conduction study. That said, carpal tunnel syndrome can easily be managed in its early stage by lifestyle changes such as taking breaks and resting your hands, applying cold packs to reduce swellings and above all avoiding activities that make the symptoms worse.

However, as the condition progresses, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain, inflammations and swellings. Wrist splinting may also be recommended to relieve tingling and numbness at night.

Doctors may also recommend surgery for severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome or to patients who are not responding positively to the other treatment options.

There are no proven ways to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome but minimizing stress of the hand by avoiding bending your wrist, taking frequent breaks, and improving your posture will go a long way to prevent severe symptoms of the condition.

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