What is hand neuropathy?

Hand neuropathy refers to any number of conditions that result from damage to the nerves that give the hand movement and sensation. Its symptoms include pain and loss of sensation, and sometimes decreased strength in the hand and fingers. Some nerve damage is caused by compression injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar entrapment, and can be relieved by surgical intervention. Diabetic neuropathy of the hand is a serious complication of uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

Neuropathy refers to damage to a nerve or nerves within the peripheral nervous system. In the case of hand neuropathy, it often manifests as pain, loss of sensation, or decreased ability to grasp objects. Some common causes of nerve damage to the hand include compression of nerves in the wrist or elbow, and traumatic injuries that disrupt communication between the hand and the spinal cord. Treatment of neuropathy symptoms may include surgery or anti-inflammatory medications, but is especially dependent on identifying the underlying injury or disease that is causing the problem.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can damage the extremities, including the hands and feet. Chronically high blood sugar levels cause glucose buildup within the peripheral nerves, leading to their gradual loss of function. Diabetes can cause a neuropathy of the hand that destroys both sensory and motor fibers at the same time, causing a sense of disability and preventing patients from controlling their hand movements. Circulation can be reduced over time if underlying diabetic complications are not treated medically, leading to the possibility of loss of the hand as tissue and nerve death spread.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is among the most common types of neuropathy of the hand. It occurs when the median nerve in the wrist is compressed at a point before it passes through the carpal tunnel in the hand and becomes inflamed. This causes hand and wrist pain and, over time, numbness and decreased function. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an entrapment neuropathy, a condition that involves compression of a peripheral nerve. It can be treated with special braces or surgery, depending on the severity of the neurological damage, which increases with repeated stressful movements of the wrist.

Ulnar neuropathy of the hand stems from inflammation of the ulnar nerve that mediates movement and sensation. Numbness and pain in the hand can also radiate down the arm. It is often an issue experienced by cyclists, as the position of the arm and hand used to grip the handlebars can cause repeated stresses as the bike absorbs the bumps of a bumpy road. For this reason, neuropathy is also known as "handlebar palsy." Ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow or wrist can cause painful symptoms in the hand.

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