Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful medical condition that involves the hands and fingers. Tingling and weakness are among the most common complaints for those suffering from this affliction. While there is no “one” cause, pregnancy can trigger issues with the carpal tunnel. Although the pain can be intense, this does not have to be a life-long problem.
What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
This common condition affects over four million people in the United States. The weakness and tingling felt in the hand are caused by pressure on the median nerve. This nerve runs the entire length of the arm and into the wrist. The narrow passageway into the wrist is called the carpal tunnel.
If a person is suffering from carpal tunnel pain, finger movement can be difficult. Without treatment, this issue has the potential for worsening over time. Even if the pain suddenly goes away, it can come back even stronger. By visiting a doctor, treatment can be started early.
What Are the Common Causes?
Many people don’t know why they developed this syndrome. Repetitive motions were once thought to be the major cause. People who type on a computer all day or play an instrument that requires the use of their fingers were thought to be the main candidates for carpal issues. Now there are several known causes for the syndrome.
Hypothyroidism, obesity, diabetes, and certain forms of arthritis can all cause carpal tunnel issues. Pregnancy, however, is one of the most obvious causes seen in women experiencing painful hand movement.
Pregnancy is known to cause swelling. While ankles are frequently thought of as major swelling points, hands can also suffer from fluid retention. When fluid builds in the carpal tunnel, the median nerve is negatively affected, causing the painful sensation often felt because of carpal tunnel issues.
Over half of all pregnant women can experience carpal issues. Symptoms may range from mild to severe, and one or both hands may be affected. Most pregnant women feel the worst of its symptoms when they first wake up in the morning and before going to sleep at night.
The list of symptoms is extensive, but it only pertains to the hands. Hands may feel or look swollen. Fingers can be warm to the touch (especially the thumb). Many pregnant women are alarmed by a loss of finger function that can occur when gripping objects or performing detailed tasks that require small and precise movement. Throbbing fingers and pain in the hand or wrist are among the most common complaints of those with nerve issues.
Experts suggest that hormones may play a part in nerve issues caused by pregnancy. Hormones are a strong factor when it comes to pregnancy swelling that can press on the median nerve.
Are All Pregnant Women at Risk?
All pregnant women have the possibility of developing issues with carpal tunnel, but some have an increased risk depending on certain health factors.
Weight can greatly impact the chances of swollen finger pain. Since pregnancy hormones usually contribute to fluid retention, women who are overweight have an increased risk for swollen fingers and hands. It is the pressure on the median nerve that causes pain and numbness in the fingers. Without fluid build-up, pressure is unlikely. By maintaining a healthy weight, the fingers and hands are less likely to become excessively swollen.
Diabetes can also play a role in pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can actually increase the fluid retention needed to affect the carpal tunnel. Because diabetes is caused by high blood sugar levels, inflammation also commonly occurs. Inflammation can be a significant problem when managing fluid retention pain.
How Is This Diagnosed During Pregnancy?
Symptoms surrounding the median nerve are often diagnosed with a simple physical exam. By visiting a medical professional, treatment can be started early on during the pregnancy.
Depending on the physician, a physical exam may include an electrodiagnostic test. This test involves the use of wires that are then taped to the skin. By using this device, the doctor is able to record signals that nerves both send and receive. If there is damage to the median nerve, an electrodiagnostic test will be able to sense any potential issues.
Another possible test is called Tinel’s Sign. This can be used to accurately diagnose median nerve conditions. During this test, the physician will gently tap over the affected nerve so that he or she can check for a radiating sensation called paresthesia.
This type of nerve damage can be easily treated once it is properly diagnosed. Since it is extremely common for women during pregnancy to develop swelling, this syndrome is even more likely to occur. For quick relief from pain, visiting a doctor is essential.