Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe
3 minute read
11 Mar 2019
10:43 am

Everything you need to know about carpal tunnel syndrome

Dr Dulcy Rakumakoe

Some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, increase your risk of nerve damage, including damage to your median nerve.

Picture: iStock

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 is responsible for controlling movement and feeling in your thumb and first three fingers.

See your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms suggestive of carpal tunnel syndrome that interfere with your normal activities and sleep. Permanent nerve and muscle damage can occur without treatment.


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:

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.

A wrist fracture can narrow the carpal tunnel and irritate the nerve, as can the swelling and inflammation resulting from any joint abnormalities.

Risk factors

These include:

Anatomic factors such as wrist fracture or dislocation.

People with smaller carpal tunnels are more prone.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is generally more common in women. This may be because the carpal tunnel area is relatively smaller in women than in men.

Some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, increase your risk of nerve damage, including damage to your median nerve.

Illnesses that are characterized by inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the lining around the tendons in your wrist and put pressure on your median nerve.

Obesity. It is a significant risk factor.

Alterations in the balance of body fluids. Fluid retention may increase the pressure within your carpal tunnel, irritating the median nerve.

Certain conditions, such as menopause, thyroid disorders and kidney failure, may increase your chances.

It’s possible that working with vibrating tools or on an assembly line may create harmful pressure on the median nerve.


Symptoms usually start gradually.

You may experience tingling and numbness in your fingers or hand. Sometimes there is a sensation like an electric shock in these fingers.

The sensation may travel from your wrist up your arm. These symptoms often occur while holding any object. The sensation may wake you from sleep.

Many people “shake out” their hands to try to relieve their symptoms.

You may experience weakness in your hand and a tendency to drop objects. This may be due to the numbness in your hand or weakness of the thumb’s pinching muscles, which are also controlled by the median nerve.


Some doctors recommend an X-ray of the affected wrist.

Electromyogram. This test measures the tiny electrical discharges produced in muscles.


Treat carpal tunnel syndrome as early as possible.

Take more frequent breaks to rest your hands.

Nonsteroidal anti-infl ammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help.

Corticosteroids .

If carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by rheumatoid arthritis or another inflammatory arthritis, then treating the arthritis may reduce symptoms.

Surgery relieves pressure by cutting the ligament pressing on the median nerve.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Take short breaks from repetitive activities involving the use of your hands.

Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

Rotate your wrists and stretch your palms and fingers.

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