Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I'm 75-years-old and just came down with carpal tunnel syndrome. If I haven't had this problem all my earlier years, why is it developing now?

Answer:

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) can develop at any age in adulthood. CTS is a common problem affecting the hand and wrist. Symptoms begin when the median nerve gets squeezed inside the carpal tunnel of the wrist, a medical condition known as nerve entrapment or compressive neuropathy. This syndrome has received a lot of attention in recent years because of suggestions that it may be linked with occupations that require repeated use of the hands, such as typing on a computer keyboard or doing assembly work. Actually, many people develop this condition regardless of the type of work they do. Any condition that makes the area inside the carpal tunnel smaller or increases the size of the tissues within the tunnel can lead to symptoms of CTS. The carpal tunnel cannot expand so any condition that causes abnormal pressure in the tunnel can produce symptoms of CTS. And any increase in pressure within the carpal tunnel can reduce blood flow to the nerve, leading to loss of nerve function. Various types of arthritis can cause swelling and pressure in the carpal tunnel. The way people do their tasks can put them at risk for problems of CTS. Some of these risks include force, posture, wrist alignment, repetition, temperature, and vibration. In other instances, CTS can start when the tenosynovium (lining around the tendons in the carpal tunnel) thickens from irritation or inflammation. This thickening causes pressure to build inside the carpal tunnel. But the tunnel can't stretch any larger in response to the added swelling, so the median nerve starts to squeeze against the transverse carpal ligament. If the pressure continues to build up, the nerve is eventually unable to function normally. A traumatic wrist injury may cause swelling and extra pressure within the carpal tunnel. The area inside the tunnel can also be reduced after a wrist fracture or dislocation if the bone pushes into the tunnel. Fractured wrist bones may later cause CTS if the healed fragments result in abnormal irritation on the flexor tendons. Other conditions in the body can produce symptoms of CTS. Any condition that can cause fluid to be retained can lead to extra pressure in the carpal tunnel. People with medical problems such as diabetes low thyroid function (called hypothyroidism), or tumors or cysts are more prone to problems of CTS. You will need a thorough examination to find out what might be causing your carpal tunnel symptoms. There could be more than one cause, which is why it is finally becoming symptomatic. Your physician will work with you to get to the bottom of the problem. Ahmed Elbardouni and Moradh Elyaacoubi. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Caused by a Palmaris Profundus Muscle. In Journal of Orthopaedics. Vol. 8. No. 3. e4.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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