Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a relatively common condition that causes pain, numbness and a burning or tingling sensation in the hand and fingers. Symptoms of CTS can range from mild to severe.

The carpal tunnel is a small tunnel that runs from the bottom of the wrist to the lower palm.

Several tendons that help to move the fingers pass through the carpal tunnel. So does the median nerve, which controls sensation and movement of your hand.

On the inner side of the wrist the carpal tunnel is enclosed within tissue called the transverse carpal ligament.

In cases of CTS, the space inside the tunnel is made smaller by the increased tissue pressure and a build-up of fluid in the tissue (oedema). This places pressure on the median nerve. The pressure is increased further when the wrist and fingers are bent (flexion). Compression of the median nerve causes the symptoms of pain and numbness.

How common is CTS

CTS is more common in women than men. In Ireland each year, around 60 to 120 women out of every 100,000 are affected by the condition compared with 35 to 60 men out of every 100,000.

The two most common age-ranges for developing CTS are between 50 to 54 and 75 to 84.

CTS is also a common condition during pregnancy, affecting up to 50% of pregnant women. It is thought that this may be due to the fluid retention that often occurs during pregnancy, which places additional pressure on the carpal tunnel and causes symptoms.

Carpal Tunnel Surgery

A local anaesthetic injection numbs your wrist, so you do not feel pain and a small cut is made in your hand.

The surgeon will then carpal tunnel inside your wrist is cut so it no longer puts pressure on the nerve. The wound is then closed, and a firm dressing applied.

The operation takes approximately 20 minutes. There is no need for an overnight stay in hospital overnight and you will be able to leave within a few hours after the surgery.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Carpal Tunnel Surgery?

After returning home from surgery you should keep you hand elevated and bandaged for the first few days. Exercising your fingers, elbow and shoulders will help prevent stiffness.
After the first few days the dressing can be removed but it is important to keep the wound area dry and clean until the stitches are removed.  Your post-surgery review will take place approximately 6 -10 weeks after your surgery.
It usually takes 3 to 4 months to recover and up to 1 year before hand strength returns. When you can return to work will depend on the type of surgery you had, whether the surgery was on your dominant hand and your type of work.

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