How Common Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?Are you feeling pins and needles or numbness and tingling in your hands or fingers? A condition called carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may be the culprit. CTS is now the most common cause of hand numbness at night and wrist pain during the day.
Symptoms of CTS can be felt when there is pressure on the median nerve as it travels through the bones of the wrist. This can occur for many reasons such as pregnancy, obesity, tumors, poor posture, neck problems, thyroid conditions, or even lack of vitamin B. The most common theory about how it is caused relates to work. Jobs that require the same hand or wrist motion over and over pose a risk for nerve problems.
How common is CTS in the United States? Researchers don't really know. Estimates vary from a low of one in 1,000 people to a high of one in 100. A large study was done to see how many people in the general population have unreported and untreated symptoms. Surveys were mailed to 1,559 members of health centers located in four regional shopping centers. Based on these results, it looks like CTS is more common than previously reported. CTS may affect as many as three of every 100 people.
More and more people are reporting symptoms that can come from CTS. Some physicians call this an epidemic, meaning lots of people seem to have the same condition in the same geographical area. However, not all numbness and tingling in the fingers or pain in the wrist or hand are caused by CTS.
In view of this "epidemic," the authors insist that accurate examination and diagnosis are needed to separate patients who truly have carpal tunnel syndrome from those who don't. Doctors who make this effort will maximize the number of patients getting the correct treatment for their condition.
G. Papanicolaou, MD, et al. The Prevalence and Characteristics of Nerve Compression Symptoms in the General Population. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. May 2001. Vol. 26A. No. 3. Pp. 460-466.
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