Do you spend your days using a computer, sorting mail, or assembling small parts? If your workplace duties put stress on your wrists, you may be at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel occurs when the median nerve, which travels through the wrist from the forearm to the hand, becomes squeezed. The median nerve is protected at the wrist by the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway of ligament and bone. If tendons, which also pass through the carpal tunnel, become thickened or swell, the passageway narrows, pressing on the nerve.

The most common cause of carpal tunnel appears to be heredity; some people simply have smaller tunnels and are more prone to the problem. Risk factors that may contribute to carpal tunnel include:

  • having a smaller carpal tunnel than normal
  • suffering a wrist sprain or fracture that causes swelling
  • an overactive pituitary gland
  • thyroid disorders
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • diabetes
  • repeated use of vibrating tools
  • stress at work
  • fluid in the joints caused by pregnancy
  • and a cyst or tumor in the carpal tunnel 

Symptoms and signs

Symptoms of carpal tunnel come on gradually and can be in one or both hands.  Other symptoms include pain in the wrist and forearm; weakness and loss of mobility in the hand; numbness in the fingers, except the little and ring fingers; tingling in the fingers when the wrist is tapped; and decreased grip strength.

To determine if you have carpal tunnel and your treatment options, please schedule an appointment with one of our plastic and reconstructive surgery specialists.

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