Posted on Aug 5, 2020 in Senior Health
Carpal tunnel syndrome or CTS is described as the most common entrapment neuropathy (nerve damage), and it’s a diverse and complex condition.
CTS is characterized by the compression of the median nerves during passage through the protective carpal tunnel. The median nerve is one of the main nerves of the hand. It’s located at the front of the forearm and goes down to the middle of the palm.
This compression causes the tendons and ligaments to become inflamed. When this happens, you’ll feel pain and a sharp tingling sensation along your hand and wrist bones. In extreme cases, numbness and weakness also occur.
There is no known cause of carpal tunnel syndrome. That said, CTS is often associated with excessive, repetitive hand motions like prolonged typing or extreme hand flexing.
Such movements aggravate the wrist tendons and exert pressure on the median nerve. Sleeping with your hand under the head can also contribute to this.
Athletes frequently suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s especially prevalent in tennis players and badminton players. Any sport calling for frequent ball throwing puts you at heightened risk of developing CTS.
Jobs like handling power tools can also trigger CTS. It’s important to note that people who smoke and drink, have renal disease, or hypertension are at increased risk. Obesity can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, too.
Age is also a risk factor. Older adults tend to develop osteoarthritis which often affects the joints of the hands. CTS seems to manifest in the elderly with more severe symptoms.
Beyond this, people born with a small carpal tunnel are highly likely to get this condition.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more prevalent in women. Women are 3 times more likely to suffer than men.
CTS reportedly affects about 1 to 5% of people worldwide.
The primary symptom of CTS is paresthesia. This is characterized by the following.
At times, older patients with other health conditions also complain of the following symptoms:
Diagnosing CTS requires the following:
Doctors often find examining the symptoms alone inconclusive as these can present as similar to arthritis or other comorbidities.
Hand examination includes putting pressure on the median nerve to see where the symptoms are coming from.
Another approach is to bend your hand up and down to see if this triggers pain. However, these methods alone are not enough to conclusively diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome.
An electrodiagnostic test includes the following:
This will record the electrical activity of your muscle tissues. Electrodes are attached to the skin (Surface EMG) or inserted into the muscles (Intramuscular EMG).
This method helps diagnose if you have a nerve or muscle disorder. It takes about 30 to 90 minutes to perform this test. It is generally safe and no special preparation is required prior to this procedure.
Nerve Conduction Study
Also known as a Nerve Conduction Velocity Test, this method is used to measure the speed of electrical impulses while it travels into your nerve. This can help determine the site and diagnose the extent and severity of the nerve damage.
This method utilizes two electrodes taped onto your skin. The first electrode works by stimulating your nerve with a very mild electrical impulse. The second electrode records the result.
An ultrasound of the wrist and forearm is considered a direct and accurate form of diagnosing CTS. It can also readily rule out any other suspected nerve conditions through high resolution ultrasonography.
Affordable, painless, and less invasive than other tests, ensure your doctor administers an ultrasound if you suspect you have CTS.
Management of carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity and duration of the symptoms. If you have it checked earlier, the prognosis is usually better.
After diagnosing CTS, your doctor will recommend the following treatments:
The phrase prevention is better than cure is certainly true with CTS.
Here are a few simple tips to help you stave off carpal tunnel syndrome whatever your age.
As with all elements of your health as you age, seeing your doctor regularly can help minimize your chances of being adversely affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you’re getting to the stage where you find it hard to make and keep appointments, have you considered an assisted living community? Get in touch with our team here at Landmark Senior Living. We’ll gladly schedule a virtual tour of the closest senior living community to you.