Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist. This can be due to anything that presses on, irritates or compresses the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. Causes include:
- a wrist or arm injury, such as a sprain or fracture
- activities that involve repetitive use (overuse) of the wrist and hand, including using vibrating tools
- rheumatoid arthritis and other joint disorders or connective tissue disorders
- fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause
- a cyst or tumour in the carpal tunnel
- abnormal growth of the hands (acromegaly)
- kidney disease with dialysis
Sometimes, carpal tunnel syndrome just happens without any obvious cause.
People at higher risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- women between the ages of 40 and 60
- pregnant women - carpal tunnel affects up to one in three pregnant women
- people with certain types of arthritis
- anyone who puts on weight rapidly
- people who use their hands repetitively in their work, such as typists or assembly line workers.
Last reviewed: November 2016