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What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

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Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common affliction in this age of computers, affecting up to 15% of the general population. The majority of sufferers are in the 45 to 60 year age group, and more women are affected than men. Carpal tunnel syndrome is most commonly associated with computer use, but people engaged in any job where there is forceful and repetitive movement are also likely to develop the condition.

The carpal tunnel is a small passageway through which nerves and muscle tendons pass between the forearm and the hand, and when the median nerve is squeezed and irritated, the result is pain, a tingling sensation and weakness of the thumb, index, and the middle fingers. If not treated, Carpal tunnel syndrome can result in a loss of functionality and permanent disability.

Symptoms of Carpal tunnel syndrome start as a vague ache in the wrist that spreads to the hand or forearm.? Tingling or numbness in the fingers and hands are a major symptom. The hands may also feel cold or hot. Pain can be felt radiating from the wrist to the arm or to the palm or fingers. Repetitive use of the hand tends to worsen the symptoms, and muscle weakness may cause a tendency to drop things over time. Stiffness of the joints and a difference in skin color of the hand can also be observed.

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms. Treatment options include simple lifestyle measures (such as using the computer less often), use of a wrist splint, medications, and surgery. Carpal tunnel syndrome is preventable to some degree; the key to prevention is to minimize stress on hands and wrists. ?A trained home care nurse can help with the treatment, and also help exercise and strengthen affected areas.

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