Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • About carpal tunnel syndrome

    Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition caused by compression of a nerve in the wrist that gives feeling in the skin over your thumb, index, middle and ring fingers. The nerve passes through a space in the wrist called the carpal tunnel.

    Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when pressure builds up within the tunnel and compresses the nerve, damaging it, which may cause numbness, tingling and pain felt in the hand and fingers and occasionally in the forearm.

    Often the cause is unknown but the nerve can be compressed due to other medical conditions, previous injuries or even fluid retention in pregnancy (this usually resolves when the baby is born).

  • Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

    The symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are usually pain, numbness and tingling. The symptoms are often felt during the night but can occur with activities such as driving or reading a newspaper. Patients also can notice a weakness in grip and may even drop things.

    Electrical studies of function of the affected nerve (nerve conduction studies) are usually undertaken to confirm the diagnosis and assess the severity of the condition.

Treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Non-surgical treatment
    Symptoms can sometimes be controlled without surgery. Wearing wrist splints at night may relieve the symptoms that interfere with sleep.
  • Surgical treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
    When symptoms are severe or do not improve by other means, surgery may be required. Pressure on the nerve is released by dividing the ligament which forms the roof of the tunnel.

    Surgery is carried out under local anaesthetic as a daycase procedure (come into hospital on the morning of surgery and go home the same day). Usually symptoms resolve immediately after surgery however, if the nerve is badly affected, they may resolve more slowly