What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

House Call Doctor explains a common syndrome and its symptoms.

Sanaz Majd, MD

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is quite common and can affect anyone at any age, but tends to occur more in women and in those who are overweight. Most of the time it is triggered by our daily routine activities and causes tingling and numbness in the fingers

Here’s the nitty gritty: There is a band of tissues encircling our wrists that includes ligaments and tendons.  Then there’s a nerve that runs through this band of tissues called the “median nerve.”  The median nerve feeds the sensation in our first three and a half fingers, starting with the thumb.  It does not affect our pinky finger. When this band becomes inflamed and thickened, it compresses the median nerve and we start to experience tingling and numbness in those fingers.

Initially, symptoms of tingling and numbness typically occur in the middle of the night.  But if left untreated, they can progress into the daytime as well.  When severe and chronic enough, some patients start to get weakness in the entire hand.  They may no longer be able to open jars and drop objects held in the affected hand. As its severity progresses, the hand loses functioning.

See your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of CTS, who will perform an exam and might perform a special test called a “nerve conduction study.”

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education. 

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