You are sitting at your desk doing your routine typing work, ignoring the hand numbness you have had since the past week. A sudden piercing pain shoots through the wrist up to the arm. You ignored it once more, thinking it’s just a cramp. But do you know it could be more? You could be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.
What is carpal tunnel syndrome? Read on to know what it really is and what are carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes numbness and tingling in the hands that ultimately leads to pain. This happens due to an excessive pressure on the median nerve which enters the wrist through the carpal tunnel, therefore called the carpal tunnel syndrome. Bones in the palm side of your wrist constitute this narrow passage. The median nerve controls sensation and movement of palm and first three fingers of the hand. Now, when this nerve is under excessive pressure, it results in weakness, burning and tingling in the hand, which is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
There are a couple of things associated with carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors and pressure on the median nerve. Golf players, tennis players, gamers, bikers, drivers, and people using the keyboard frequently without any breaks are at the highest risk of median nerve compression. Repetitive hand movement, wrist injury, putting the wrist in an awkward position can also lead to compression of median nerve. Compressed median nerve swells the bones which causes severe pain in hand and hindrance to daily tasks. Unfortunately, the pain doesn’t just end at hand and wrist, but moves up to the forearm and arm when left untreated.
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops gradually. Initially, you will notice a slight sensation at night or when you wake up. During the day, you will observe tingling when lifting objects or when driving. As the condition progresses, it will start causing difficulty in grasping things or even making a fist. You might even begin dropping things or finding it difficult to button your shirt. In the worse scenario, carpal tunnel syndrome may also cause difficulty in distinguishing between hot and cold objects.
There are number of carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors recognized by researchers, doctors and patients. Many of these do not actually directly cause the disease but may prove to increase the risk of you getting carpal tunnel syndrome. At other times, some of these risk factors might increase the chances of you aggravating your carpal tunnel syndrome. Let’s look at such examples in detail.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Risk Factors
It is important to be aware of the factors that can result in carpal tunnel syndrome causing itching, burning or tingling of the hands.
Women have a smaller carpal tunnel in their hands by birth. A small carpel means a higher chance of nerve irritation and a reason why women are three times more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome than men are. Moreover, pregnancy and menopause also puts females at a risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. The reason for this is understandable. Both pregnancy and menopause retain the fluid changing the hormonal balance that restrict the free movement of carpal. Shake and twist your hand every then and now to keep your wrist muscles flexible.
Do you know that your job might become the reason of developing carpal tunnel syndrome? If your work involves repetitive hand movement, you are at risk. Musicians, factory workers, keyboard operators, typists, car drivers working for straight 8 hours without any break, all are at risk. Likewise, any other work that relies more on the services of your hand than any other body part weakens the muscles of your hand leading to carpal tunnel syndrome in the long term. Similarly, if you are frequently exposed to vibrating motions, it is increasing the chance of compression of the median nerve. If compressed, you can have swollen bones and therefore,carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you have an overactive pituitary gland, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, there is a higher chance of you developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Why and how these diseases could lead to carpal tunnel syndrome is startling but essential to know to prevent initiation of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hypothyroidism is a condition when the thyroid gland is underactive, meaning that it cannot make enough hormones to keep the body functioning normally. During hypothyroidism, thyroid gland deposits mucopolysaccharides on median nerve. Mucopolysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules. An excess of these sugar molecules in carpal tunnel eventually leads to swelling of ligaments (soft cartilage bone) of the tunnel. Controlling hypothyroidism is key to preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Likewise, rheumatoid arthritis also causes inflammation of wrist joints.
When you have diabetes, excessive glucose from blood can enter the tunnel causing ligaments to swell that restrict their ability to slide freely.
However if you succeed in managing these medical conditions with proper consultation of your healthcare provider, you can stay at bay from carpal tunnel syndrome.
Wrist Trauma or Injury
Any trauma or injury to wrist is an obvious carpal tunnel syndrome risk factor. A wrist injury compresses the median nerve, disrupts its ability to allow movement, produces tingling in the hand and eventually leads to carpal tunnel syndrome. A wrist or hand injury may also result in bone dislocation that swells the carpal. It is essential to visit the physician immediately when you have a wrist sprain or any injury, even if you do not feel pain immediately. Afterall, carpal tunnel syndrome develops slowly.
Often, there is no single reason that can be singled out as the cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. It's also possible that you have one or more of these risk factors but do not show any signs of occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, if you have more than one of these carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors and are continuously facing problems in holding objects and have a burning sensation in your hand, you are in danger. Immediately make an appointment with a physician and discuss your case. If you do not take inflammation seriously and do not make changes to your lifestyle, you are literally inviting carpal tunnel syndrome.
When carpal tunnel syndrome becomes severe, you may lose hand’s strength due to weakening of the muscles. Pain and cramping becomes worse with time and leads to disability. What is the prevention then? Early diagnosis! It can help avert wrist inflammation and prevent carpal tunnel syndrome risk factors taking shape of carpal tunnel syndrome.