Symptoms and Risk Factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Early carpal tunnel symptoms can be subtle; they may come and go and eventually worsen. With carpal tunnel, the nerves and muscles in your wrist can have permanent damage if you don't treat the problem. Spotting carpal tunnel symptoms early is important so you can start treatment and possibly avoid surgery. Are you at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome? Consider these carpal tunnel causes, risk factors, and symptoms.
Carpal Tunnel Symptoms
Carpal tunnel syndrome develops when something puts pressure on the main nerve in the wrist. Something growing in the wrist—such as a mass—can cause this. Inflammation in the wrist is another cause.
Many people feel wrist pain. But, carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms start slowly. They often start and then go away. Over time, symptoms get worse—they happen more often and last longer.
Sometimes, symptoms develop after you've hurt your wrist. Many times, symptoms appear without any injury. They're usually in the hand you use the most. Some people have symptoms in both hands.
Common symptoms include:
Wrist pain, which may go all the way up to the shoulder
A burning feeling in your fingers or wrist
A shocking feeling that shoots into your fingers
Difficulty gripping objects
Weakness in your hands
Dropping things often
Feeling that your fingers are thick, even though they don't look any different
Trouble forming a fist
Symptoms that are worse at night and may wake you from sleep
Pain that gets worse when you use your hands or wrists a lot
Finding relief when you shake your hands
After you've had symptoms for a long time, they can get worse. You may lose some feeling in your hands.
Other health problems also can cause symptoms like these. One way carpal tunnel syndrome is different than other conditions with similar symptoms is that it usually does not cause any visible swelling in your fingers or hand. The swelling is inside your wrist, so you don't see it.
You should always see your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Your doctor can diagnose the problem and treat it the right way.
Carpal Tunnel Causes and Risk Factors
Why do some people get carpal tunnel syndrome and others don't? Doctors don't fully understand the factors that increase people's risk of developing this condition. However, there are some activities and conditions that seem to raise the risk.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in people who do certain types of work. They have jobs where they do the same motions with their hands over and over again throughout the day. This includes such occupations as:
Grocery store cashiers
People who work at a computer for much of the day
People who work with machines or tools that vibrate
Hobbies that strain the wrist and increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Sewing and other needlework
Working in the garden
Rowing a boat
Health conditions that increase the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Diseases that cause inflammation or hurt your nerves
Prior wrist injury, such as breaking a bone in your wrist
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women. It's also more common in people who have a family member with the condition. If you have risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist. They can examine your wrists and show you ways to prevent or reduce your risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.