Understanding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Women – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The carpal tunnel is a tube like narrow tunnel in the wrist. It contains the carpal bones and ligament. Inside the carpal tunnel is the tendons and median nerve. The median nerve which runs through the wrist to the palm of the hand provides sensation to the index, middle, ring, and thumb finger.
Carpal Tunnel syndrome in women is the compression of the median nerve of the hand that causes swelling, numbness, tingling, and loss of strength in the hand. This syndrome occurs when there is sudden increase in the pressure on the median nerve.
Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Women
Carpal tunnel syndrome in women is mainly caused due to anything that can increase the pressure on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel space. A number of risk factors and causes have been associated to indirectly causing increased pressure on the median nerve. They are listed as follows:
#1. Genetic Diseases:
Certain chronic illnesses like diabetes can cause nerve damage which can lead to median nerve damage too.
#2. Hormonal Changes:
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women due to the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, after birth, and menopause. This occurs as hormonal changes increase fluid retention which in turn increases the pressure on the carpal tunnel thereby irritating the median nerve. Other disorders related to thyroid gland, lymphedema, and kidney failure can also increase the chances of carpal tunnel syndrome.
#3. Anatomic Factors:
Deformities such as arthritis, dislocation, or fracture can change the space in the carpal tunnel and increase pressure on the median nerve.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more common in women as the carpal tunnel in smaller in women than men.
Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Women
Due to the compression of the median nerve, your hand will feel numb, fall asleep and tend to drop objects. Some of the common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in women are:
- Tingling, and numbness in the thumb and other 3 fingers of the hand
- Burning sensation that travels up the arm
- Weakness in the muscles of the hand
- Wrist pain specially at night
Treatment for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in Women
It is important to treat as soon as you observe the first few symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The early stages of treatment can include
- Cold packs to reduce swelling
- Avoid too many physical activities that can cause strain on the hand
- Give frequent rest to the hands
Other treatment options can include non-surgical and surgical therapy. Some of the non surgical treatment options include
#1. Wrist Splinting:
This treatment includes adding a splint that holds the wrist together. The splint will help reduce symptoms like numbness and swelling.
#2. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs:
Drugs such as ibuprofen can reduce the swelling and pain caused due to carpal tunnel syndrome.
This involves the injection of corticosteroids using an ultrasound into the carpal tunnel to relieve pain.
Some of the surgical treatment options are
In this method, the doctor makes an incision over the carpal tunnel in the wrist and cuts through the ligament to free the pressure on the nerve.
Using a tiny telescopic camera called the endoscope to view inside the carpal tunnel, the surgeon cuts through the ligament to free the nerve.
After the surgery, during the healing process, the ligaments slowly grow back together and leave more space for the median nerve. The doctor will advise to use the hand only after the ligament has healed.
Treating carpal tunnel syndrome in women early with lifestyle changes, medications and surgery can reduce symptoms and lead to long term improvement of the condition. Leaving carpal tunnel syndrome untreated can lead to disability, nerve damage, and loss of hand function.