Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when swelling in the wrist puts pressure on the median nerve. The median nerve is a sensory and motor nerve that runs from the upper arm and into the palm of your hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause numbness, weakness, or tingling. The condition can be due to repetitive motion, underlying conditions, or trauma. Undiagnosed carpal tunnel can lead to loss of sensation in your fingers and even permanent dysfunction of the hand. You may wonder, how is carpal tunnel diagnosed?
How Is Carpal Tunnel Diagnosed?
Carpal tunnel can be diagnosed using a variety of different methods. Your medical provider may use one or more of the following diagnostic exams.
In the vast majority of cases, your medical provider will assess your medical history and symptoms. The pattern of symptoms can be helpful in determining whether you have carpal tunnel. Patients may experience numbness when you wake up in the morning or symptoms at night (may cause you to wake up). If possible, record your symptoms in a diary so you can give your medical provider as many details as possible.
Just like assessing your medical history and symptoms, your medical provider will conduct a physical examination. This includes testing your fingers, the strength of the muscles in your hands, bending your wrist, and tapping or pressing the nerve. Still, this can help them confirm, or provide more information, so your neurosurgeon in Los Angeles can accurately assess and diagnose the condition.
An ultrasound of your affected wrist can give your medical provider a good picture of the bones and nerves. Accordingly, these images can help determine if the nerve in your wrist is being compressed.
Some medical providers recommend X-rays. Getting images of your affected wrist can help exclude other issues, such as a fracture or arthritis. It’s important to understand that X-rays won’t help with your carpal tunnel diagnosis, but are necessary to rule out the possibility of other potential conditions.
Nerve Conduction Study:
This test involves taping two electrodes to your skin. A small shock is passed through the median nerve. This is helpful in determining if the electrical pulses are slowed down in the carpal tunnel. This is a beneficial test as it can both help in diagnosis and rule out other conditions.
This test involves the insertion of a very thin needle electrode in specific muscles. The test measures small electrical discharges produced in your muscles and evaluates the electrical activities when your muscles rest and contract. Electromyography can determine damage to the muscles controlled by the median nerve. Similar to the nerve conduction study, it can also be used to rule out other conditions.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Treatment
It’s important to get properly diagnosed in order to effectively treat your carpal tunnel syndrome. Undiagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage. This can result in tingling and numbness, and can become much worse over time. Severe nerve damage can result in sleep disruptions which can impact your daily life. Once you are diagnosed with the condition, treatment is often necessary.
Depending on the severity of the condition and the way it impacts your daily life, treatment can vary. Still, initial treatment options should be conservative and regular assessments of your progress are necessary to ensure you are on the right treatment plan. Carpal tunnel syndrome treatment can include prescription medication and activity modifications. These can be adjusted depending on your unique needs. Dr. Yashar and his team at Yashar Neurosurgery are skilled in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Contact their office today to schedule a consultation.