Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is diagnosed based on your description of symptoms, findings of physical examination, and electrodiagnostic tests that measure nerve conduction through the hand. If the health care facility does not have electrodiagnostic testing, the doctor will diagnose the condition based on symptom descriptions and a series of physical tests.
The three factors necessary for a clear diagnosis of CTS are:
However, diagnosing CTS may not be straightforward in many cases as they may not exhibit the three factors necessary for a clear diagnosis. For example, some people may have abnormal electrodiagnostic test results without classic symptoms or any symptoms at all, or some may have symptoms consistent with CTS, but most do not show test results indicating the disorder.
History and physical examination: If you have signs and symptoms such as:
Timing of the symptoms may also offer clue to the diagnosis. Typically, a person with CTS may experience symptoms which include shivering while holding a phone or a newspaper, gripping a steering wheel, or waking up during the night. On physical examination, strength of the muscles in your hand may be affected by carpal tunnel syndrome.
If your symptoms and physical examination are suggestive of CTS the doctor may do one or more of the following tests to decide whether you have carpal tunnel syndrome.
The two tests, electromyogram and nerve conduction study, can help to rule out other conditions that might mimic carpal tunnel syndrome, such as a pinched nerve in your neck. If the cause of your symptoms cannot be diagnosed, you may be referred to rheumatologist, neurologist, hand surgeon or neurosurgeon to determine if your signs or symptoms indicate other medical disorders, or a need for specialised treatment.
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