Causes, risk factors, etc.
Severe carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to the degeneration of muscles and nerves, known as atrophy. In many cases, people with carpal tunnel syndrome can prevent atrophy by seeking prompt treatment.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects nerve function in the hand and wrist. People with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience tingling and numbness in the hands and fingertips.
Without proper treatment, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to atrophy, which is the wasting of nerves and muscles. However, many people with carpal tunnel syndrome can avoid atrophy with preventative measures and medical care.
Keep reading to learn more about carpal tunnel atrophy, including causes, risk factors, and prevention strategies.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome usually get worse over time. During the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome, people may notice pain and numbness. These sensations usually occur in the thumb and ring finger, middle finger and index finger.
Tingling or pain may travel up the forearm as the disease progresses. People may begin to have difficulty with routine tasks that require grip strength, such as opening jars or twisting a doorknob.
In advanced carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle and nerve atrophy can occur.
People with carpal tunnel atrophy may notice a indentation in the bulging area at the base of the thumb, known as the thenar eminence. This happens when the muscles around the thenar eminence shrink.
As nerve atrophy reduces the amount of sweating in the hands and fingers, people may also notice dry skin on the hand.
Small repetitive movements of the hands and wrists can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome over time. Certain activities that increase the risk of this condition include:
- typing on a keyboard
- using a computer mouse
- use hand tools regularly
- playing sports that require portable equipment, such as a baseball bat or tennis racket
- using a wheelchair or walking aid, which can cause prolonged force in the wrist
Other factors can also increase the likelihood of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. For example, older people are more likely to experience it. A study 2018 found that the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome is highest between ages 45 and 65.
A higher body mass index (BMI) also increases the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome. Obese people have a greater amount of fat surrounding the nerves of the hand and wrist. This fat can put extra pressure on the nerves, which can increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Smoking, regular alcohol consumption and lack of exercise are examples of lifestyle risk factors. People who have suffered wrist injuries such as sprains and fractures are also at increased risk, as are those with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, hypothyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis.
People with symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome should see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Taking steps to get treatment quickly is the only way to avoid permanent nerve and muscle damage.
Early management strategies can prevent atrophy. These strategies may include wearing a wrist splint while sleeping and resting the affected area. People who do not receive or respond to conservative treatment may require surgery.
People with carpal tunnel atrophy may have lifelong symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The only way to avoid long-term damage is to get proper medical care as soon as possible.
If carpal tunnel syndrome progresses to the point of atrophy, the damage can become permanent. People who develop symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome can take steps to manage and process the state before it progresses.
Wear a wrist splint
Doctors usually recommend a wrist splint as a preliminary treatment for people with carpal tunnel syndrome. A wrist splint is an inexpensive and relatively convenient form of treatment.
People with carpal tunnel syndrome will need to wear the splint while they sleep to manage their symptoms. They may also choose to wear a splint when performing activities that cause pain or tingling.
Corticosteroid injections can reduce the inflammation and pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
In some cases, a doctor may use an ultrasound to determine the best location for the injection site. The injection procedure is relatively painless and generally safe.
A physical therapist may be able to help manage mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome. They might recommend exercises that stretch the hand, neck, and shoulders to reduce symptoms. They may also suggest people with carpal tunnel syndrome try yoga or other forms of low-impact exercise.
A study 2017 found that people who had physical therapy experienced the same benefit after one year as people who had surgery. However, the best treatment option still varies from individual to individual. Anyone interested in physical therapy should speak to a primary care physician to learn more.
Carpal tunnel surgery
In some cases, doctors may advise surgical decompression for people with carpal tunnel syndrome. This technique helps reduce pressure on the median nerve and can minimize symptoms.
People with symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome should consult their doctor to determine the right treatment. With proper care, symptoms can be managed and severe atrophy can be prevented.
Recovery time from carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of the disease and the effectiveness of treatment.
Most people who have carpal tunnel surgery do not have serious complications. It is possible to recover from surgical decompression in about a month.
In some cases, carpal tunnel syndrome may progress to a severe level before treatment. Some people with advanced carpal tunnel syndrome may not be able to fully recover. They may experience permanent symptoms, such as tingling or muscle weakness.
People who notice symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome should see a healthcare professional as soon as possible. Early treatment can reduce the risk of long-term complications. By getting quality treatment early on, people with carpal tunnel syndrome can make a full recovery.
Advanced carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to nerve and muscle atrophy. This waste of nerve and muscle tissue can cause permanent damage without timely treatment.
There are many treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome, ranging from wrist splints to surgical decompression. Getting treatment early is the best way to prevent any long-term damage from this condition.
People who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome should discuss their treatment options with a medical professional.