How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affect its Anatomy?

How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affect its Anatomy

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway on the palm side of the wrist. The anatomy of the carpal tunnel consists of:

  • Bones: The carpal tunnel is formed by the bones of the wrist and the transverse carpal ligament. The carpal bones, eight in total, form an arch-shaped structure. These bones include the scaphoid, lunate, triquetrum, pisiform, hamate, capitate, and trapezoid and trapezium.
  • Transverse Carpal Ligament (Flexor Retinaculum): This is a strong band of connective tissue that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel. It stretches across the wrist from the pisiform and hook of the hamate on the ulnar side to the tubercles of the scaphoid and trapezium on the radial side.
  • Median Nerve: This is one of the main nerves of the hand and forearm. It runs from the brachial plexus in the neck down the arm and passes through the carpal tunnel. The median nerve provides sensation to the palm side of the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. It also controls the muscles at the base of the thumb.
  • Flexor Tendons: These are the tendons that flex the fingers and thumb. They pass through the carpal tunnel along with the median nerve. The tendons are surrounded by synovial sheaths, which are lined with synovial fluid to reduce friction during movement.
  • Blood Vessels: Along with nerves and tendons, blood vessels also pass through the carpal tunnel. These vessels supply blood to the hand and fingers.

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) affects the anatomy of the carpal tunnel primarily by compressing the median nerve within this confined space. This compression can result from various factors, including inflammation, swelling, or structural abnormalities.

How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affect its Anatomy

Here’s how CTS affects the key anatomical structures:

  • Compression of the Median Nerve: The primary effect of carpal tunnel syndrome is the compression of the median nerve within the carpal tunnel. This compression leads to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in the hand, particularly in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the ring finger. The compression can also cause symptoms to radiate up the arm.
  • Inflammation and Swelling: In many cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, inflammation and swelling of the flexor tendons or surrounding tissues contribute to the compression of the median nerve. This inflammation can reduce the available space within the carpal tunnel, further exacerbating nerve compression and symptoms.
  • Nerve Dysfunction: Prolonged compression of the median nerve can lead to nerve dysfunction. The nerve may not transmit signals properly, resulting in abnormal sensations such as tingling or numbness. In severe cases, muscle weakness and atrophy may occur due to impaired nerve function.
  • Vascular Compression: Along with compressing the median nerve, carpal tunnel syndrome can also affect blood flow within the carpal tunnel. Compression of blood vessels by swollen tissues can reduce blood flow to the hand and fingers, leading to symptoms such as coldness or discoloration.
  • Structural Changes: Chronic compression from carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to structural changes within the carpal tunnel, including thickening of the transverse carpal ligament and narrowing of the tunnel itself. These changes can further exacerbate nerve compression and worsen symptoms over time if left untreated.

Conclusion – How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affect its Anatomy

Overall, carpal tunnel syndrome affects the normal functioning of the hand and wrist by causing compression and dysfunction of the median nerve and associated structures within the carpal tunnel. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to prevent the progression of symptoms and minimize long-term nerve damage.

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