Studies show that about 20% of people with diabetes will one day develop carpal tunnel syndrome. This means that carpal tunnel syndrome is an astonishing 15 times more common in people with diabetes compared to the general population.
How Diabetes Leads to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Diabetes is a disease characterized by impairment in the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin—resulting in elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. It’s one of the most common chronic health conditions, affecting 34.2 million adults in the United States. About 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with an inefficient use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be managed with weight loss, a healthy diet, and regular exercise in the early stages, but medication or insulin injections may be needed if blood sugar levels remain poorly controlled.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a type of entrapment neuropathy that occurs when the median nerve running from the forearm to the hand becomes pinched or compressed. The underlying cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is unknown. However, high glucose levels are thought to be a contributing factor since excess glucose causes inflammation and hardening by sticking to tendons in the wrist. When this happens, sufferers can experience pain in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and ring finger. They may also experience a loss of strength with a sense of weakness in the hand and a tendency to accidentally drop objects while going about their daily routine.
Women, regardless of whether they are diabetic, are more likely to be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome than men because they have a narrower carpal tunnel space. Gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes occurring during pregnancy, has been shown to be strongly associated with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Diabetics who also suffer from high blood pressure or a thyroid condition have an increased risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome compared to diabetics without these co-occurring disorders. However, determining the exact impact of each risk factor is difficult.
It was once believed that repetitive motions such as typing or working in a factory assembly line caused carpal tunnel syndrome. We now know this is untrue. However, activities involving repetitive motion will often exacerbate the numbness and tingling that is associated with the condition.
Getting a Correct Carpal Tunnel Diagnosis
If you have diabetes and suspect you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you should consult your healthcare provider for a formal diagnosis. Diabetic neuropathy, a type of nerve damage associated with poorly controlled diabetes, is a separate medical condition that is not related to carpal tunnel syndrome but causes similar symptoms.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is generally diagnosed using a combination of your medical history and a physical examination that checks sensation to the fingers as well as the strength of the muscles in your hand. Your doctor may also order tests known as nerve conduction studies that measure how quickly electrical signals move through your peripheral nerves.
Treatment Options For Carpal Tunnel
Managing your diabetes, using wrist splints, and avoiding positions that overextend the wrist may help minimize the pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are experiencing difficulty despite these measures, the next step is to consider surgical options such as ultrasound-guided carpal tunnel release with the SX-One MicroKnife. In this procedure, a doctor uses ultrasound to view critical anatomy in the wrist and hand, then create space to transect the transverse carpal ligament (TCL) while protecting sensitive anatomic structures.
Ultrasound-guided carpal tunnel release is best-known for its short recovery time. Most patients are able to return to work or their regular activities within three to six days. Pain is normally controlled with over-the-counter medication, and post-operative physical therapy is typically not required.
Contact Our Towson Office Today for Carpal Tunnel Treatment!
Dr. Eric H. Williams provides ultrasound-guided carpal tunnel release as an alternative to the traditional endoscopic procedure or open surgery. We encourage you to learn more about your options for quickly and effectively addressing your carpal tunnel pain by contacting our Towson office.