Carpal tunnel syndrome is an uncomfortable condition that affects the wrists, hands and forearms. With carpal tunnel syndrome, which often arises because of repetitive motions, the median nerve that runs from the forearm to the hand becomes compressed.
Learn more about the symptoms of this condition and whether your job may put you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome
If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, your hands may feel numb or weak. You might also experience a tingling, burning or itching sensation. Often, these symptoms impact all fingers except the little finger. As the condition progresses, the tingling may travel up your arm and numbness may become constant. Some people have trouble securely holding objects.
You may notice symptoms when you drive, read a book or use a keyboard. Sometimes, the discomfort associated with carpal tunnel can awaken a person from sleep.
Risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome
People who work on an assembly line, use vibrating tools, type or otherwise perform repetitive hand movements at work have an elevated risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. WebMD notes that bakers, sewers, tailors, musicians, hairstylists and cashiers are also at risk. Other risk factors for this condition include:
- Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lymphedema, kidney failure, thyroid disorders and menopause
- Taking anastrozole, a drug doctors prescribe to treat breast cancer
- Being female
- Anatomy, such as a narrow carpal tunnel encasing the median nerve
- Previous wrist trauma
Treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome
The first line of defense for this condition is reducing the movements that lead to your symptoms. Physical therapy exercises can often help take pressure off the nerve. Wearing a splint can also relieve this pressure and help the nerve rest. Steroid shots and anti-inflammatory medications may help control symptoms.
Over time, carpal tunnel syndrome can cause permanent nerve damage without treatment. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. If you cannot work because of this condition, he or she can help determine whether you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.