Difference Between Carpal Tunnel And Arthritis
Arthritis is a condition characterized by inflammation or degeneration of cartilage and bone, which affects the joints of your body. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), also known as “degenerative joint disease.” According to the National Institute of Health, more than 27 million people are currently living with OA. Though it’s typically associated with aging, the condition doesn’t discriminate when it comes to race or gender. It occurs equally among men and women, and can affect both sides of the body.
The symptoms of arthritis vary from person to person because they’re affected by the location of the pain and how long you have had it. Your doctor will look at these factors as well as other signs, such as redness or warmth around the joint, to determine the underlying cause. Pain in one location may be caused by different things depending on where the problem originates. For example, knee pain could stem from either an injury or arthritis; if the pain is located under the kneecap, however, it could be due to arthritis. If the pain is near the bottom of your foot, it could be a result of something like gout.
One symptom that nearly everyone has experienced is stiffness after waking up. This happens because our bodies use muscles for movement during sleep, but we don’t exercise them until we get out of bed. When we do move, we tend to do so slowly without taking full steps. Stiffness is often described as feeling tight. You might not notice this unless you’ve been aware of it for several days. But if there’s no improvement after a few days, talk to your doctor about what might be causing it.
Another symptom is tenderness. Tenderness is a sign that you feel pain when pressure is applied to the area in question. In some cases, it’s possible to apply excessive pressure to areas of the body that aren’t painful. A good way to know whether you have arthritis is to ask yourself, “Does moving make my pain worse?” If you answer yes, then you probably have arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the most common kind of arthritis, is characterized by loss of cartilage between two bones rubbing against each other. Cartilage acts as padding between the bones and allows their motion. Without it, bones rub together painfully. As the cartilage wears down, the spaces between the bones become larger. Eventually, the bones begin to fuse together completely. Because of this fusion, the space formerly occupied by cartilage shrinks. The end results are a decrease in mobility and a reduction in the size of the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another type of chronic inflammatory disorder that causes damage to the synovial membrane, which lines the joints. Unlike OA, which only affects older adults, RA affects all ages. There’s no cure for RA, but treatments can help reduce the amount of inflammation, relieve pain and improve general health. Typically, patients experience morning stiffness, pain and swelling in the joints, fatigue, fevers, weight loss and rashes. Even though RA is less prevalent than OA, it still affects approximately 1 percent of Americans.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a medical condition affecting the hand, wrist, forearm and arm. CTS is the name given to the complications arising from compression within the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway in the palm of the hand. Compression of the median nerve that runs through the tunnel leads to numbness and tingling in parts of the thumb, index finger, middle finger and half of the ring finger. The main symptom is pain in the thumb, index and middle fingers that intensifies when doing repetitive motions, such as typing or knitting. Other symptoms include weakness, burning sensation, pins and needles, numbness and shooting pains into the arms, shoulders and chest.
Because the carpal tunnel houses many important nerves, including those responsible for controlling the hand and wrist movements, doctors must take special precautions to treat the syndrome properly. One precautionary measure is to avoid wearing jewelry that puts extra stress on the wrists. Wearing rings, bracelets and watches can increase pressure on the wrist. Another preventative measure is to keep the wrists straight while standing or sitting. This helps reduce pressure on the carpal tunnel.
Although CTS accounts for only about 2 percent of all arthritis complaints, it does occur more frequently in certain groups. Women over age 50 are twice as likely to develop it compared to men of the same age group. Also, people who work with their hands for prolonged periods of time, such as nurses or secretaries, are susceptible to developing CTS. Additionally, some studies suggest that having a family member with OA or RA raises the odds of developing carpal tunnel fivefold. People with diabetes are also prone to getting carpal tunnel.
If you suffer from any of these conditions, your physician should perform tests to rule out carpal tunnel syndrome. Depending upon the severity of the condition, treatment options range from splints and braces to surgery. Surgery is reserved for severe cases of CTS and involves decompressing the carpal tunnel by cutting away part of the surrounding tissue.