How do I know if I have carpal tunnel syndrome?
As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, its signs and symptoms can change. They tend to appear gradually and get worse over time. In the most common cases, CTS starts with numbness, tingling, pain, and a burning sensation. As time goes on, patients may experience weakness along with a loss of sensitivity and dexterity.
Whatever you’re feeling, hand or wrist pain isn’t normal.
What are the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome?
- Tingling and numbness: When people have carpal tunnel syndrome, which is also called median nerve compression, they have numbness and a pins-and-needles sensation in their thumb, index, middle, and half of their ring fingers.
- Waking up at night: This uncomfortable tingling feeling often occurs at night or in the early morning. It frequently wakes patients up and can lead to insomnia. They often have a burning sensation in one or both wrists and feel like they have to shake out their hands to make the numbness and pain go away. Some even say their hands feel like they’re on fire.
- Activities: CTS symptoms are often brought on by certain activities, like driving, holding a phone for a long call, reading, washing your hair, or brushing your teeth.
- Loss of feeling: As the condition progresses over time, patients may lose feeling in their fingers, temporarily at first, then potentially permanently. Patients can lose their sense of touch in their thumbs and index, middle, and half of their ring fingers, as these fingers are connected to the median nerve.
- Muscle atrophy: As the condition worsens, the muscles in the thumb and palm may begin to atrophy, or permanently shrink. This causes a loss of dexterity and pinch strength between the thumb and index finger, making it difficult to handle small objects like coins or button up your clothes. This loss of coordination can progress to the point where you might lose your grip on a pen or have trouble writing.
MEET YOUR HAND EXPERT
A first step towards recovery
Dr. Brutus talks about the symptoms of CTS
Can CTS be mistaken for another condition?
Other nerve compression syndromes often have similar symptoms as CTS. Patients who are experiencing numbness in the parts of their hand that connect to the median nerve (thumb to ring finger) should be examined for nerve compression by the transverse carpal ligament at the wrist, which would indicate carpal tunnel syndrome, and by the lacertus fibrosus at the elbow, to rule out lacertus syndrome.
When is it time to see a doctor?
We recommend making an appointment if your symptoms are affecting your sleep or interfering with your daily life, or if you’re experiencing sharp pain, weakness, or a sudden loss of dexterity.
Practical and comprehensive
Everything you need to know to identify and treat Carpal tunnel syndrome. Written in clear and simple language by hand surgeon Dr. Jean-Paul Brutus, this e-guide identifies the causes, symptoms, and different ways to treat CTS and offers recommendations on how to ease your symptoms at home.