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Q&A with Dr. Michael G. Soojian

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)?

It’s a condition in the wrist caused by pressure on the median nerve. The tendons that bend your fingers share the carpal tunnel with the median nerve. When compressed, pressure builds up in the carpal tunnel, irritating and inflaming the nerve and causing tingling, burning and numbness in most of the fingers and thumb. CTS is most commonly associated with repetitive motion of the hands in both work and leisure activities, but can also occur from other conditions like pregnancy, diabetes, hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, and wrist fractures or traumas.

How can CTS be treated?

If detected early enough, it may be treated non-surgically. First, it’s important to identify the cause and take immediate action. For example, ergonomic equipment and special wrist braces can be used to keep the wrist straight. Cortisone injections can also help decrease the nerve inflammation.

If non-surgical methods fail, or symptoms are severe, surgery is considered after carefully testing to help rule out other causes of nerve inflammation and to confirm a CTS diagnosis. Surgery for CTS is an outpatient procedure using local anesthesia and an IV sedative. Wrist function is not impaired, and many patients feel immediate and dramatic relief, while others may take weeks or months to fully recover. In rare cases that were not caught early, full recovery is not achieved, but symptom relief is possible.

What should I do if I think I have CTS?

If you have persistent tingling, burning and/or numbness in your fingers, consider making an appointment with a carpal tunnel specialist so you can be examined and treated properly. Remember, early detection is important so you can keep doing all the things you love to do.