Do I have carpal tunnel symptoms?

November 12, 2012

Do I have carpal tunnel symptoms?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a collection of symptoms related to the wrist, hand and forearm and now affects millions of people every year. It is generally caused by inflammation of the connective tissue surrounding the median nerve which runs through the wrist and into the hand. This inflammation is very often the result of repetitive motions – indeed; carpal tunnel syndrome is often referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury. However there are other causes which are often not considered including thyroid problems and pregnancy.

Symptoms

Carpal tunnel symptoms include pain in the wrist, numbness and tingling – almost like pins and needles without the pain that often brings.

Patients very often report waking in the night with a dead feeling in their arm which is relieved by shaking. Carpal tunnel symptoms may also occur when ironing, using the computer, or when driving.

Treatment

Initial treatment for carpal tunnel symptoms may include physical therapy and the wearing of a wrist support. If no improvement is seen a cortisone injection may be administered. For patients who still see no improvement surgery may be the only option.

Surgery to relieve carpal tunnel symptoms generally attempts to release the compressed medial nerve which will only work if it is the cause of the problem!

Under active thyroid

Carpal tunnel symptoms may indicate the presence of an under active thyroid (hypothyroidism). An accidental outcome of some studies has been that patients with diagnosed hypothyroidism who were taking medication for their condition noticed a sudden disappearance of their carpal tunnel symptoms.

Hypothyroidism is not always easy to diagnose – and may not even be the first thought of a doctor presented with a patient complaining of carpal tunnel symptoms. The difficulty arises because there is more than one test for thyroid function.

If a doctor carries out a Thyroid Stimulating Hormone test (TSH) and sees a normal result he, or she, will assume that no hypothyroidism is present and will, therefore, not conduct any further tests. However, in the studies of hypothyroid patients who had also seen their carpal tunnel syndrome disappear, it was found that these patients had normal levels of TSH, but as a result of having all their thyroid levels checked had been diagnosed with ‘subclinical hypothyroid’ the treatment of which also resolved their carpal tunnel syndrome and removed the need for surgery.

Overactive thyroid

Some studies indicate that patients with an overactive thyroid may also have carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of their condition, and that that condition also resolved itself as the thyroid condition was treated without the need for surgery.

Not enough evidence

At present scientists have concluded that there is insufficient evidence of any link between carpal tunnel symptoms and thyroid disorder and so no routine laboratory screening is recommended. Studies continue to determine whether carpal tunnel syndrome can be considered to be a peripheral neurological manifestation associated with disorders of the thyroid gland. It seem that until further evidence is made available routine screening of patients for hard to detect conditions will not take place before a surgical procedure.

No doubt any carpal tunnel surgical patient who fails to see any post-operative improvement in their condition may well wonder if there is perhaps another underlying cause for their symptoms.

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