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Conditions That Mimic the Effects of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

written by: Sherry Morris • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/22/2011

There are many conditions that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome. It is very commonly misdiagnosed. An electrical study can help to diagnose any other disease or condition and whether it is actually carpal tunnel syndrome.

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    Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome appear gradually and can include the following: a sense of weakness in your hands and a tendency to drop things, numbness, tingling and burning in the fingers and palm of the hand, pain in the wrist, forearm or palm, weakness in the thumb, swollen fingers and difficulty distinguishing between hot and cold. There are other conditions that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome.

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    Images

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    Conditions

    Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is often misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome due to similar symptoms and causes. HAVS consists of injuries of the muscle nerves and tendons of the wrist and hand. Its symptoms include pain, tenderness and swelling of the fingers, numbness, weakness or tingling in the fingers, reduced sensitivity to heat and cold and loss of dexterity.

    Cervical spondylosis is age related wear and tear affecting the disks in your neck. When nerve compression is present, symptoms may include a stiff and painful neck, shoulder or arm pain, tingling sensations or numbness in the arms, hands, legs or feet, lack of coordination, difficulty walking, abnormal reflexes and loss of bladder or bowel control.

    Cubital tunnel syndrome is the effect of pressure on the ulnar nerve, which is one of the main nerves of the hand. Its symptoms include pain, swelling and clumsiness of the hand and tingling or numbness of the ring and small fingers.

    Tenosynovitis involves inflammation of the fluid filled sheath that surrounds the tendon. Symptoms of tenosynovitis include pain, swelling and difficulty moving the affected joint. It sometimes causes the finger to "stick".

    Diabetic neuropathy can cause pain or numbness in the hands, legs or feet, described as a burning sensation.

    Trigger finger symptoms can progress from mild to severe. Symptoms include finger stiffness, especially in the morning, popping or clicking as the finger is moved, tenderness and a bump at the base of the affected finger. The finger can sometimes lock into a bent position.

    Arthritis presents with local tenderness of the finger, knuckle or wrist joints. Symptoms include decreased motion, morning stiffness and pain.

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    Diagnosis

    You will need to schedule an appointment with your physician. Your physician will want a detailed history and description of your complaints. He will then ask you a set of questions and score the results, which are quite accurate. He may then order a nerve conduction study which will not only diagnose carpal tunnel, but will catch conditions that mimic carpal tunnel syndrome. Your physician may refer you to a neurologist.

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    Treatment

    A conservative approach can be taken such as corticosteroids (steroids), either injected or short term oral. Also a wrist splint can stop the wrist from bending, typically worn at night, or during sports.

    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are sometimes used. Ice can sometimes give relief from acute pain, or altering between ice and heat can sometimes help.

    If no relief is occurring, then surgery is another option.