Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Although the exact cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is unclear, certain factors can increase the risk of developing the condition. Some of these risk factors include:
- Trauma or injury to the wrist that causes swelling, such as a sprain or fracture
- Overactivity of the pituitary gland
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Alcohol abuse
- Mechanical problems in the wrist joint
- Work stress
- Repeated use of vibrating hand tools (such as from a jackhammer or chainsaw)
- Fluid retention during pregnancy
- Hormonal changes, including menopause
- Development of a cyst or tumor in the canal
- Obesity (see BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight).
Women are three times more likely than men to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, perhaps because the carpal tunnel itself may be smaller in women than in men. The dominant hand is usually affected first and produces the most severe pain. The syndrome usually occurs only in adults. The risk also appears to increase with age.
The risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is not confined to people in a single industry or job, but is especially common in those performing assembly-line work, such as:
- Meat, poultry, or fish packing.
In fact, carpal tunnel syndrome is three times more common among assemblers than among data-entry personnel. A 2001 study by the Mayo Clinic found that heavy computer use (up to seven hours a day) did not increase a person's risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome.