Medical Illustrations

Picture of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Illustration

Carpel tunnel syndrome is a painful and sometimes disabling condition that occurs when the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed. The median nerve is responsible for sensations in the palm and most fingers. It runs through the carpel tunnel, the area of wrist bones located between the forearm and the palm.

Carpel tunnel syndrome may cause symptoms like burning, tingling, and weakness in the palm and fingers. An affected person may have decreased grip strength. Initially, symptoms may be worse at night. Repetitive use injury from typing, writing, performing assembly line work, playing racket sports, and similar activities increases the risk of carpel tunnel syndrome. Certain conditions including diabetes, arthritis, thyroid disease, obesity, and pregnancy can contribute to carpel tunnel syndrome. Women are affected by the condition more often than men. Severe carpel tunnel syndrome can be associated with muscle atrophy.

It is important to diagnose and treat carpel tunnel syndrome early to reduce the risk of permanent nerve damage. A doctor can diagnose carpel tunnel syndrome based on the patient's reported symptoms as well as a physical examination. Imaging studies can help visualize affected structures in the wrist and help rule out other conditions. A nerve conduction study can provide information about how fast impulses travel along the median nerve.

Treatment for carpel tunnel syndrome depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. If diabetes, thyroid trouble, or other disorders play a role in carpel tunnel syndrome, addressing those conditions should result in some relief. Avoiding activities that contribute to symptoms should also help. Sometimes, wearing a special brace on the affected wrist can decrease symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are useful to decrease pain and inflammation. Corticosteroid injections may be administered to decrease swelling. In severe cases, a surgery called carpel tunnel release involves cutting tissue inside that wrist to decrease pressure on the median nerve.

Image Source: MedicineNet, Inc.

Text Reference: "Carpel Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.