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5 Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome—And When to Get Help

5 Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome—And When to Get Help

Disclosure – this is a collaborative post.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (which is sometimes abbreviated as CTS) is a common condition that affects the hands and wrists. It arises from compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel—a narrow passageway in the wrist surrounded by bones and ligaments. This compression can cause a variety of symptoms, ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and numbness. If CTS isn’t properly treated, it can lead to the potential loss of function of the affected hand. 

Several factors can cause a person to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, the most common of which being repetitive hand and wrist movements. Typing, drawing with a stylus, or operating machinery can strain the wrist and trigger or exacerbate the condition. As such, individuals who regularly engage in these activities as part of their work or hobbies are particularly at risk of developing CTS. Additionally, certain health conditions can increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These include diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, hypothyroidism, and obesity.

Recognising the risk factors associated with CTS can help individuals take proactive steps to mitigate their chances of developing the condition. With this in mind, familiarising yourself with the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is essential for early detection and prompt treatment. If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s in your best interest to visit a hand specialist Singapore citizens trust and have your hand (or hands) checked. 

Hand Weakness

Hand weakness is a common symptom experienced by individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome. It often manifests as a decreased ability to grip objects firmly or perform tasks that require fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or holding utensils. The weakness may affect one or both hands and can vary in severity. In mild cases, individuals may notice a slight decrease in hand strength; meanwhile, those with more severe cases may find gripping objects challenging or even impossible.

Hand weakness in CTS is attributed to the compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. This compression interferes with the nerve’s ability to transmit signals effectively, leading to reduced muscle function and weakness in the hand. Consult a hand specialist immediately if you experience hand weakness. If left unchecked, this symptom can lead to further deterioration of hand function and may impact daily activities and overall quality of life. 

Numbness or Tingling Sensations

Another symptom of carpal tunnel syndrome is a numbness or tingling sensation in the hand and fingers. Also known as paraesthesia, this symptom typically affects the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger—the areas innervated by the median nerve, which traverses the carpal tunnel. It’s triggered or exacerbated by activities that involve repetitive hand movements or prolonged wrist flexion. Sensations caused by this symptom may range from mild tingling to complete numbness, interfering with normal hand function and causing discomfort if ignored. Visit your doctor or hand specialist if the numbness or tingling lasts for more than two weeks to confirm whether or not you have CTS.

Swollen Feeling in the Fingers 

While visible swelling may not always be present, individuals with CTS may experience a sensation of fullness or puffiness in their fingers that is more noticeable in the areas supplied by the median nerve. The swollen feeling in the fingers is due to the compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. This can disrupt the normal circulation of blood and fluids in the affected hand, leading to a sensation of swelling or puffiness. Often, this symptom of CTS is accompanied by other symptoms like numbness, tingling, or pain in the hand and fingers. 

Burning Sensation in the Hand or Fingers

In carpal tunnel syndrome, a burning sensation in the hand or fingers—often described as a tingling or prickling feeling—is caused by nerve compression and irritation within the carpal tunnel. The pressure on the median nerve disrupts its normal function, leading to abnormal sensory signals that manifest as burning or tingling sensations in the affected hand and fingers. The sensation can range from mild to intense and may be accompanied by numbness or tingling. This symptom typically originates in the palm or the fingers, particularly the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger.

Pain or Discomfort

The pain associated with CTS typically manifests in the palm and may radiate to the wrist, forearm, or even the shoulder in some cases. It’s often described as a dull ache, throbbing sensation, or sharp, shooting pain. The intensity of the pain may increase during activities that involve repetitive hand movements or prolonged wrist flexion. Additionally, individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience pain or discomfort at night, disrupting their sleep patterns.

If the pain lasts for more than two weeks or if the pain results in difficulty or the inability to bring the thumb and the index finger together, consult a hand specialist.

Addressing the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome is essential for improving quality of life and overall hand function. Seeking medical evaluation and implementing appropriate treatment strategies, such as splinting, medication, or physical therapy, can help alleviate pain and discomfort and prevent further progression of the condition. You can also minimise risk factors by adopting practices that can help reduce strain on your wrist and hands. Examples of preventive measures include taking regular breaks, practising wrist stretches, and using ergonomic equipment.

Finally, the key thing to remember is to always consult your doctor or a trusted hand specialist if any of the above carpal tunnel symptoms have lasted for more than two weeks and have affected your ability to work and quality of life.

Disclosure – this is a collaborative post.

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