Question:I'm currently working at an assisted living facility as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). I notice that many of the folks have trouble holding silverware to eat. They all tell me they have carpal tunnel syndrome and their fingers are numb. Is this caused by aging?
Answer:Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a compression neuropathy. This means that pressure on the median nerve in the wrist causes nerve impairment. The most common symptoms are numbness, tingling, and pain of the wrist, palm, and first three fingers of the hand.
CTS does seem to increase in prevalence with age. The exact reason for this is still unknown. Anatomic changes in the shape and space inside the carpal tunnel from aging may be part of the answer.
The carpal tunnel is formed by the bones in the wrist. The nerves to the wrist and hand pass through this space. Anything that changes this alignment can cause CTS. Arthritis, bone spurs, wrist fracture, and obesity are just a few things that can contribute to changes in the wrist leading to CTS.
Systemic conditions can also bring on CTS. For example, vitamin B deficiency (common in older adults) has been linked with CTS. Diabetes, leukemia, multiple myeloma, and local tumors or cysts are just a few other possibilities.
CTS can be treated successfully, even in the older adult groups. This may be something to identify as a problem and work toward improving. Reducing the symptoms can improve function and quality of life for your residents.Aaron M. Freilich and A. Bobby Chhabra, M.D. Diagnosis and Pathophysiology of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In Clinical Opinion in Orthopaedics. July 2007. Vol. 18. No. 4. Pp. 347-351.
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